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Spillman Farmer Architects takes top honor for $10.6M project

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The Cetronia Ambulance Corps Joint Operations Building in South Whitehall. (Contributed Photo)
The Cetronia Ambulance Corps Joint Operations Building in South Whitehall. (Contributed Photo)

Spillman Farmer Architects of Bethlehem earned a top award from the Eastern Pennsylvania chapter of a national organization for a $10.6 million project.

The firm received the award last week from the American Institute of Architects at its annual design awards program at Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Longswamp Township.

Joseph Biondo, design principal at Spillman Farmer, attended the banquet and received the award for the Cetronia Ambulance Corps Joint Operations Building in South Whitehall Township, for which he was the design principal. Cetronia Ambulance Corps is a nonprofit community-based emergency medical services provider in South Whitehall. The building also is used heavily by Lehigh County for operations and storage.

The competition garnered 17 entries, representing 11 firms in eastern Pennsylvania. Five of the 17 entries earned awards. Awards levels included special citation, award of merit and award of excellence, which is the highest level for the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter, said Christie Jephson Nicas, director of marketing for Spillman Farmer.

“We were surprised that it took the highest honor,” Biondo said. “The unique aspect is that we’ve taken an ordinary structure and made something extraordinary from out of it. We created a strong solution that was intended to withstand the test of time.”

Award categories included: institutional/commercial, special initiative/unbuilt, community service/pro-bono, educational, residential and electric.

With interior fit-out, site work and total construction costs, the project budget came out to $10.6 million, said Larry Wiersch, CEO of Cetronia Ambulance Corps.

While the amount was more than he had hoped for, Wiersch said he learned a lot through the process of managing the project and said Spillman Farmer and Boyle Construction of South Whitehall, the construction manager, guided him.

“We spent a great deal of time; this was the first project that I’ve ever been involved with of this magnitude,” Wiersch said. “They were very good about helping us determine what were the right courses of action throughout the project.”

The design went through quite a few revisions, he added, noting the organization wanted a building that was functional and efficient.

“It’s designed with functionality at the core,” Wiersch said. “This building is used very heavily.”

The end result is a partnership with Lehigh County that includes a mix of uses, including space for the entire Cetronia Ambulance operations, a ballistics testing lab, county emergency management equipment, county morgue, pathology department and space for crime-scene investigation.

The centerpiece of the building is shared space with the St. Luke’s Community Education Center, he said.

“That room gets used heavily by police, fire, community groups, business groups, emergency management and schools,” Wiersch said.

Embassy Bank for the Lehigh Valley has the mortgage for the facility, and American Bank in South Whitehall Township supplied the letters of credit, he said. Also, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. helped guide the organization.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh.

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