Correctional Facility Design: 4 Trends to Watch

The construction process is becoming more efficient as teams collaborate and design to accommodate changes in layouts of facilities.

1. Special management housing

The design of special housing for medical and mental needs is one of the most important trends. For example, the design of mental health units that are separate for males and females in addition to medical treatment units is a trend. In these housing conditions, it may be necessary to add more padded and negative pressure cells. Also in cell cameras are required for the monitoring of prisoners.

In one prison replacement currently under construction the owner asked that a 16-cell block be made into a separate unit. This segregated cell has unique features like a sallyport entrance and wire mesh walls around video visitation. It also includes a high level of safety in the outdoor recreational area. Owner also asked that one 16-cell block be designated as a special mental health unit with the same features. Based on the example above, just over 10% of all cell blocks have been dedicated to managing special needs. This client built the two units so that they could have one or even two residents in each of their cells.

2. Enhance capacity

In the corrections sector, capacity needs have increased. As border security becomes more important, facilities are now requiring greater capacity.

In comparison with the two-man conventional cell, we see a growing acceptance for the use of cells that can house four to eight people. It is possible to achieve the same level of safety as two-man cells, while at the same time reducing construction costs.

3. New Builds

In addition to a need for additional beds, economic conditions are driving the construction of new facilities or the expansion of existing ones.

Although new constructions are more expensive than renovations, they pay off in the long run with improved efficiency and safety.

New construction allows greater flexibility when it comes to floor plan, which in turn can improve operational workflows and reduce staffing costs.

As new buildings also need new equipment, the cost for new technology is only a fraction the total price of new equipment. Owners prefer to make this small initial investment because they will reap the benefits of increased efficiency in operating and performance over time. It is a different approach to the premium that owners are willing to pay to improve the efficiency of an existing building. In this case, the upgrade involves the replacement and removal of all existing equipment, which makes it more difficult to justify the expense.

While agencies try to find ways to lower operating expenses, and to conserve natural resources they also consider the total costs of ownership. This is not limited to construction. Most owners are looking closely at the layouts, security and energy efficiency of their new buildings.

4. Specialty suppliers

A high level of corrections construction is currently taking place and will be in the very near future, which has created a demand for special suppliers and trading partners.

It is likely that this increased demand will continue for some time.

How do contractors deal with this problem? In order to take into account the added lead time, design teams tailor their decisions in accordance with budget and schedule concerns that fluctuate as production capacities for different components increase and decrease depending on current and future projects. Designing around a certain cell type, for example, can depend on current and anticipated capacity from modular cell suppliers. It can also affect the approach to the overall structure system. This demand for more construction can lead to longer schedules and higher construction costs. Due to limited production capacity and increasing demand, clients are choosing their contractors sooner, allowing the team to purchase long-lead-time products and avoid delays.

The changing design of correctional facility and the demand for increased capacity is influencing not only how owners view their needs but also the construction team’s design and collaboration to increase efficiency. Construction teams are adapting to changing conditions and ensuring facilities can meet both housing needs as well mental health demands.

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