Expertise

At Johnson Roberts Associates we specialize in public projects, here are a few of the areas where we have a 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

Johnson Roberts Associates’ founder and Principal J. Stewart Roberts has over thirty years of experience designing libraries. We have performed over one-hundred library feasibility studies, designed over sixty of them and have completed construction of more than thirty-five of them. We probably have more library experience than any other firm in New England.

Our Library:NEXT visioning round table sessions engage community members to discuss the future of library design — including improved sustainability, accessibility and current issues such as ventilation system effectiveness. 

A library is an iconic symbol of the community and an important contributor to its identity and culture. When designed well they can serve as a modern ‘town square’ that fosters vibrant interaction, education, and growth.

Tufts University

Educational Facilities (k–12 & higher education) Design

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. 

Jonson Robert 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

At Johnson Roberts Associates, all three of our Principals love old buildings. They’ve taught architectural history, lectured on important buildings and authored articles on how to best provide universal access. Most importantly we’ve all had hands-on experience in crafting renovations, restorations, and additions that extend the functionality and beauty of historic buildings for future generations.
We’ve restored historic structures and interiors of numerous seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century wood, brick, and stone structures. Attention to detail, forensic building research, testing and documentation are the foundations of our restoration methods. From Historic Structures Reports, to grant application assistance and accessibility enhancement, we have earned a reputation for careful restoration and preservation, and respectful additions and renovations that complement the historic character of the original architecture. And we’ve handled successful preservation grant applications to the Massachusetts Historical Commission and have won awards for excellence in preservation.

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

House Doctor Projects (On-call, ongoing)

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 can be thought of as a ‘road map’ for the informed development of an institution’s physical presence over time. Whether prepared in collaboration with a facility user on a single site, or a large leadership group responsible for a multi-building campus, a thoughtfully developed master plan will effectively guide an institution’s short and mid-term facility usage and development. Johnson Roberts Associates architects and our team of consulting engineers have a proven history of guiding clients (and their constituents) in the logical, methodical, and cost-effective planning for the realization of facility and site development goals.

We are also well-versed in Feasibility Studies. These projects often involve initial site analysis where we answer key questions. Will the site support the proposed structure, parking, and associated site development? What will the impact of the development be on the surrounding buildings, properties, and neighborhood? Through investigation and discussions, we answer these questions and provide guidance on how best to move forward.

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).