Expertise

At Johnson Roberts Associates we specialize in public projects, here are a few of the services we provide — all with proven record of success.

Essex Public Safety Complex

Public Safety Design

Firefighters are exposed to deadly carcinogens every time they respond to a call. But the dangers don’t end when the smoke clears. According to the NFPA, cancer-related deaths are 14% higher among firefighters than the general population, due in part to the toxins they bring back to the station. Johnson Roberts Associates (JRA) is committed to designing healthier firehouses that help save the lives of the first responders who are dedicated to saving ours. From contextual new construction projects to retrofitting historic stations, our work reflects the values of the communities in which we build while keeping firefighters safe – on and off the job. 

JRA provides a full range of firehouse design services, including feasibility studies, programming, and building and environmental zoning assessment. Our designs help reduce exposure to carcinogens and contaminants through better planning, intelligent mechanical systems, and durable, non-porous materials. As experts in the concept of Healthy In, Healthy Out—practices and procedures that help isolate pollutants in dedicated zones—we’re committed to sharing our knowledge with clients, collaborators, and leading manufacturers. We aren’t just designing healthier spaces; we’re inspiring healthier behaviors and contributing to a healthier industry.

We’re proud to have developed the Firehouse Design Guidelines for the City of Boston and to have provided design services for more than a dozen firehouses across Massachusetts. Our experience has taught us the unique needs of on-duty firefighters beyond life-safety, and the special role a firehouse plays in the community. We know how to design for firefighter comfort and wellbeing, and take great care to ensure that our buildings aren’t just practical—they are also beautiful and sustainable. Our enduring designs bolster the unique character of the places we build today and adapt to the new technologies and best practices of tomorrow.

Townsend Public Library

Library Design

A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people” So said Andrew Carnegie, and we couldn’t agree more. In fact, we started Johnson Roberts Associates in 1996 to do just that — build libraries to benefit people. Libraries are a part of our DNA. Weve been at the forefront of the field for 25 years, and as one of the leading library designers in New England, were committed to building, renovating, and expanding libraries to support communities as technologies, services, and needs change. 

With our extensive experience, we understand the distinct challenges of small libraries in rural areas, large libraries in major cities, and all the libraries in between. And we know that book-lending is just part of the modern librarys role. Dedicated spaces for lending tools, equipment, or instruments are often as important as dedicated services for kids, young adults, and seniors. We’ve designed libraries with video and podcasting studios and flexible spaces that can be meeting rooms, makerspaces, or whatever comes next. Through  Library:NEXT, our roundtable discussion series, we regularly lead conversations with thought leaders on the future of libraries and how to plan for uncertainty. 

Johnson Roberts Associates has completed nearly 40 libraries and more than 100 feasibility studies for public libraries across New England, including multiple projects for the Concord (MA) Public Library System, the Lithgow Library in Augusta, Maine, and spaces in the historic Boston Public Library’s McKim Building. All of our projects are unique but share an underlying design sensibility. Our libraries are inviting, and our plans are intuitive. They encourage browsing and draws people through the space using natural light and enticing views, letting visitors find exactly what they need.

Tufts University

Educational Facility Design (k–12 & higher education)

At Johnson Roberts Associates, we’ve been designing buildings for education long enough to remember when the only classroom with a computer was the “typing lab”. Today, students don’t need a dedicated space to learn typing—most already know—but they do need an environment that nurtures curiosity, comprehension, and connection – with educators and with one another. As designers and planners, we’re committed to creating resilient, flexible learning spaces built to endure passing trends and embrace new technologies.  

How do we do this? Like the best educators, we listen and facilitate discovery. One of the root words of education is “educe” – to draw out. That’s exactly what we do. Through community workshops and conversations, we help students, faculty, staff, and other key stakeholders identify what they need and want in a building. We also learn how—and where—students spend their time in a building or on campus. Then we use those findings and leverage our 25+ years of experience to transform underutilized spaces, solve existing problems, and create new opportunities through imaginative design strategies. 

Johnson Roberts Associates have designed more than 50 spaces for learning—from classrooms and libraries to cutting-edge labs and makerspaces—for grade schools, colleges and universities, and municipalities. We value the lasting relationships we’ve built with many of our clients, including Tufts, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Cambridge Public Schools, and the MA State College Building Authority. On every project, at every scale, we have a proven record of making the kind of positive changes that significantly improve the student experience.

Wenham Town Hall, Front exterior view
Wenham Town Hall

Municipal Facility Design

Well-designed town halls and municipal offices improve the working environment for department personnel as well as the experience of citizens when they visit — fostering healthy civic engagement.
We have completed a wide range of municipal projects including:
• New, energy efficient and handicap-accessible town offices
• Renovations and additions to historically significant town halls
• Adaptive reuse of older and historic structures

Because of our vast experience with MGL Chapter 149 and its variations, we have developed contract document coordination and quality control strategies that benefit our clients greatly (keeping costs under control and saving time). And, we have extensive experience with the Massachusetts Building Code, the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Massachusetts procurement laws. 

We have also provided site evaluation, programming services, and feasibility studies for communities examining their future municipal facility needs. We strive to create multi-use spaces that allow for future growth and flexibility. And we utilize our comprehensive library of use-specific information resources to assist and inform our clients of current trends and the impact of time on the built environment.

Sustainable Design

As long-standing members of the United States Green Building Council, we are committed to sustainable design. Eight of our projects have received LEED certification. In 2019 we joined the AIA 2030 Challenge (a voluntary program to encourage, support, and monitor the sustainability of architecture projects). In 2020 we were recognized for reaching the initial 70% energy reduction goal (only 15% of the participating firms achieved this milestone).

Our projects often utilize high efficiency mechanical systems, photovoltaic systems, and energy-efficient building enclosures to ensure further sustainability. Today’s technology allows for the creation of sustainably designed structures with minimal compromises or cost increases. In the end you’ll save money on energy bills and be ahead of the curve on protecting our environment. Here are some of our top performing recent projects:
• Reuben Hoar Library: 82% energy use reduction
• South Hadley Public Library: 82% energy use reduction
• Erving Public Library: 81% energy use reduction
• Concord Free Public Library Expansion: 80% energy use reduction

Learn more on our Sustainable Practices & Standards page.

Lithgow Public Library (1896) Augusta, ME

Historical Restoration & Renovation

We love old buildings. We love the stories they tell and the way they imbue our cities and towns with a sense of history. To ensure those buildings and stories continue to enrich communities across New England, Johnson Roberts has cultivated expertise in restoring and updating historically significant civic and municipal structures, including buildings that date back nearly 400 years. Whether we’re working on a renovation or new addition, our thoughtful interventions rejuvenate historic buildings to meet contemporary expectations for accessibility, comfort, and sustainability — reducing energy use by over 80% in some instances. 

Our approach to building renewal is based on extensive forensic research, testing, and documentation — all bolstered by our exacting attention to detail. We know what to save and how to weave new infrastructure into existing building fabric so seamlessly you won’t know it was there. But you will feel it. This dedication to preserving the past resonates with our promise to the future as a critical part of our commitment to the AIA 2030 Challenge. Extending the life of historic buildings not only reduces embodied carbon impacts, it preserves the unique character of a place for future generations.

Johnson Roberts has worked on dozens of building renewal projects across styles and centuries. We’ve restored, renovated, and revitalized many notable historic government buildings in New England, including Cambridge City Hall and parts of the Boston Public Library McKim Building. And for 15 years, we’re proud to have worked alongside the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Restoration as on-call house doctors supporting their mission to “protect, promote, and enhance” the state’s cultural resources.  

Powder Magazine (DCR)
Powder Magazine, Cambridge, MA (DCR)

House Doctor Projects (On-call/Ongoing Architectural Services)

Our extensive experience with house doctor projects means we are very familiar with all the challenges they offer — such as aggressive schedules and tight budgets. ‘Summer Slammer’ projects (and all occupied building projects) often require special approaches such as: pre-ordering of long lead-time materials; second (and sometimes third) shift work; detailed scheduling (including regular updates and ‘lookahead’ work projections); dedicated areas for the receipt and storage of construction materials; fire watches (when existing systems have been deactivated); close coordination with local regulatory authorities; the need for enhanced onsite construction supervision, etc. No matter the hurdle, we can help you get over it.

Our team has/is working on house doctor projects with:
• The MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (on our third five-year house doctor contract with the DCR)
• Bridgewater State University
• The MA School Building Authority
• The MA Department of Transportation
• Northern Essex Community College
• Cambridge Public Schools/Buildings (including Cambridge City Hall)
• The Boston Public Facilities Department
• UMass Lowell
• Worcester State University

John Bapst Memorial High School
John Bapst Memorial High School (Master Plan & Design)

Master Planning & Feasibility Studies

A master plan is like a road map. It provides step-by-step, turn-by-turn instructions to get from where you are to where you want to be. A good master plan, like a good map, will also identify some places to stop along the way to rest and replenish before moving on toward your goal. At Johnson Roberts Associates, we craft our feasibility studies, phasing strategies, and master plans to guide an institutions growth while supporting its short-term needs.

From individual buildings to campuses and communities, our planning projects always begin with finding the right questions to ask. Then, we analyze the site(s), interview clients and stakeholders, and conduct collaborative design workshops to get the community invested in the process. With our deep respect for the character of the places we build, we also work to understand the impact of a project on the surrounding neighborhood. We use this research to create Guiding Principles that keep us focused on our clients goals. These principles are must haves,” and we measure every plan against them to be 100% sure it works.

Johnson Roberts Associates has worked extensively with municipalities and institutions across New England, assessing facilities, identifying goals, and designing strategies to serve their communities better. Our experience ranges from feasibility studies for building expansions to campus master plans to comprehensive assessment and planning strategies for entire cities or towns. Whatever the project, we present our clients with multiple options to accommodate different budgets, schedules, and goals. Ultimately, every plan we develop outlines a realistic and actionable strategy for building stronger communities.

East Forest Park Library
East Forest Park Library (Springfield, MA)

Interior Design & Furnishings

We regularly provide in-house interior design and furnishings selection/procurement services for both new municipal facilities and historically significant interior rehabilitation projects. By providing these services ourselves we can more effectively coordinate the electrical and telecommunications needs directly with the furnishing requirements and unite the interior look and feel with that of the exterior.

Cambridge City Hall
Historic Cambridge City Hall

Pandemic Protocols

Our work during the pandemic has included projects to improve air-circulation and implementation of precautions to minimize spread and exposure to the virus. We are prepared to help public institutions adjust to evolving infection control measures with improved air circulation and book drop-off/pick-up windows in new libraries. For example, we recently helped develop new COVID-19 HVAC protocols for Cambridge Public School buildings (and other public buildings in Cambridge, MA such as their historic City Hall).