Experience By Design: A Post Occupancy Evaluation of the Tarrant County College Fire Service Training Center, Fort Worth, Texas
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Firefighting is an extremely hazardous, potentially life-threatening occupation where failures in training quite often lead to injury or death. A well-trained fire fighting force can reduce the potential for the loss of life and/or property, and help minimize the impact of potential community-wide disasters. The following research yields empirically relevant data that will improve the understanding of adult education as it relates to fire fighter training and improve understanding of the potential effects of the learning environment on that education. The Tarrant County College Fire Service Training Center, (FSTC), a state-of-the-art fire training facility located on the Tarrant County College Northwest Campus in Fort Worth, Texas. The approximately 26-acre facility serves as a primary training and education facility for firefighters and emergency response personnel from a 16-county region surrounding Fort Worth. The FSTC is a multipurpose emergency training campus and includes a 48,000 square foot classroom and administration building, a mock fire station and a 23-acre live fire training field designed to replicate environments and hazards typically encountered in the local region. The FSTC is unique in that it was designed to create realistic training environments that focus on teaching applied skills in the contexts in which they would be encountered by the responder in the field. The facility was also designed to create experiential learning opportunities that serve as real time simulations of emergency scenarios requiring students to respond to both a changing environment as well as to other students who are participating in the training event. The post occupancy evaluation described here was designed to assess a selection of key facilities and their operational success measured against the original design program and design intent employing a goal-achievement postoccupancy evaluation perspective. The findings of the conducted research were established by comparing the building performance in use with the programmatic and design goals identified during the planning and design of the facility. The goal of this effort was to evaluate the facility in use by determining the level of congruency between programmatic and design goals, and those of instructors and students utilizing the facility. To determine the level of congruency a Multi-attribute Utility Technology analysis was conducted and included a survey of students and instructors from two basic academy classes. The survey was administered upon conclusion of each class after students participated in State mandated live fire training days held on the last four days of their course. Information collected from the two classes was then compared to the programming values established during the development of the facility. Findings from this research indicate strong levels of congruence between the programmatic goals for the experiential learning environment with those of the environment in use. The findings also provide insight into the relationship between curriculum, instruction, and the physical environment, which not only impacts the usefulness of the physical environment, but also impacts the overall experience of the student. The findings also point to the need to develop strong systems that integrates all three elements closely in order to create experiential learning environments that provide the best learning outcomes.
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