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Well being of APD employees key in new building's design

  The Aspen Police Department may soon have a new home, one that’s designed for improved mental health among staff. Morgan Neely has the details.

In the basement of the Pitkin County courthouse, Aspen residents and town officials are mingling, enjoying refreshments and viewing schematics for APD’s proposed new building.

“I’m ecstatic about the plans. Hopefully we can keep refining them, developing them, making them more efficient, making them right for the community.”

That’s Aspen’s chief of police, Richard Pryor. He went over the design with members of the public at an open house in November.

For decades, APD officers and staffers have worked in a shared space in the basement of the Pitkin County Courthouse. It feels more ‘subterranean tunnel’ than ‘municipal office building.’

City Council has approved more than $16 million to fund the construction of 15,000 square feet of new space for the department.

Lead designer Jim Kehoe of Charles Cunniffe Architects is at the open house. He’s aiming to ensure the cognitive well-being of officers through the built environment. It’s one, he says, the community can be proud of.

“It’s vital to the police because they’ve been in a basement for many years, but it’s vital to any new building. We’re learning that cognitive health is very important and it’s affected by the way buildings are structured," he says.

Kehoe drew inspiration for the project from a growing body of research showing the effects the built environment has on its occupants.

Kehoe’s design is structured around the Well Building Standard, which considers seven factors that impact occupant health, like comfort, air and water.

“We need to get a lot of daylight in. This building’s going to be naturally ventilated. It’s going to be reducing energy costs," he says.

More than 80 projects in 12 countries are Well Building certified.

The orientation of the building — and how it will integrate the natural beauty surrounding downtown — is a major concern for Kehoe. The new building will be on the Zupancis site, where the parking department is currently located.

Amy Mountjoy lives just outside city limits. She’s curious about an issue often on the mind of valley residents any time new construction is proposed in the downtown core

Because you can see it so well when you’re on the mountain or coming down. It sounds almost superfluous, but what it looks like from the top, we all see it every day, so it’s nice to be proud of it when you’re standing on top of the mountain and looking down and saying yep, that’s our new building and it’s really cool," she says.

There’s no date set for groundbreaking or project completion, but another open house will likely be held in February.

For Aspen Public Radio News, I’m Morgan Neely.