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Using computers to accelerate schedules and improve quality.

Like many agencies, during the past decade the California Department of Corrections has grappled with a burgeoning prison population and the challenge of building prisons quickly and efficiently. To provide quality prisons in a short time, the department has developed an innovative approach toward construction using computerized standardized design documents--a carefully crafted and refined set of records on the most effective and efficient way to construct a prison. Other agencies facing similar circumstances may find this approach useful.

Demand Stretches Resources

Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, California witnessed unprecedented growth in its state prison population. By May 1992, the number of inmates had skyrocketed to 103,000, more than four times the number in 1980. Facing a major crowding crisis, in 1984 the department began a massive prison construction program, designing and building more than 33,600 new inmate beds in eight years. This monumental effort required a commitment of public resources of more than $5 billion.

During this time, the department faced two critical tasks: keeping pace with the spiraling inmate population and retaining support for new prison construction funding. We met these challenges by producing the most cost-effective, durable and safe buildings possible. We developed the "California Prison Building System"--a strategy for planning, designing and building prisons quickly and efficiently while achieving better standardization. Developed by the department and its program management firm, the system began with a series of standards and guidelines that produced our first prototype building--the "270 housing unit."

As we built more prisons and gained more experience, we improved our prototype designs for better construction, more efficient operation and lower construction costs. We also created new prototypes for administrative and support buildings, maximum security housing units and female housing units.

Prototype Designs Before Computers

The sheer size of the California prison building program--20 new facilities or additions to existing facilities in eight years--required simultaneous work on multiple projects on very tight schedules. Our original prototypes enabled us to meet deadlines with accuracy, speed and consistency. Frequently, however, prototypes changed as we incorporated new ideas and experiences. This constant change forced the department and its program manager to review every new application of the prototype design.

Consider the overwhelming volume of paper we generated! A set of drawings for a typical California prison consists of 1,500 drawings and 5,000 pages of written specifications. Sixteen sets of the drawings had to be distributed to different internal and external review groups for each of the four stages of the project--design development documents, 50 to 75 percent construction documents, 100 percent construction documents and bid documents.

While we were developing prototype designs on paper in the early 1980s, we considered using computer-aided design (CAD) for controlling revisions. However, at the time most designers did not have computers and software with these capabilities. But by 1988, most of the designers we were working with used CAD and its cost had significantly decreased.

By then, we also had gained substantial large-scale design and building experience, and we decided to produce our designs as flawlessly as possible in the form of computerized standardized design documents, or SDDs. While some innovative private sector firms had used SDDs for fast food outlets and banks, few organizations had used them for designing projects as large and complex as a prison. A California prison typically is designed to house about 2,200 inmates. Like a small city, it may contain more than 35 different types of buildings totaling more than 1.2 million square feet, and it may be located on as much as 360 acres of land.

We wanted to use SDDs to ensure better control of the outcome of our prison projects. We believed SDDs would improve quality control significantly because buildings would be "pre-designed" to meet requirements without the extensive review process previously required. If we could produce high-quality documents for every new project, we could control costs and reduce design and construction time by minimizing change orders and construction claims. Better quality construction also would reduce the life cycle costs of operation and maintenance.

To do this, we needed to come up with a new way to produce SDDs and effectively manage the design and construction process.

Standardizing the Designs

In 1988, we began a two-year concerted effort to develop the first set of SDDs. We established a review committee comprised of members of the department's design, custody and telecommunications staff and the program manager that met regularly to go over prototype construction documents taken from the first round of constructed prisons and select those that would become the "base documents" of the SDD package.

In reviewing the prototype designs, the committee examined construction costs and change orders. Members also looked at results of post-occupancy evaluations of previously built prisons for quality and operational efficiency. During several design meetings, the committee reviewed the data, identified specific design problems and developed solutions. This effort produced 35 building designs, representing the best building designs to date. These buildings included housing units, the central kitchen, the firehouse, the warehouse and others.

The reviewers identified generic design features that remain constant from project to project, such as wall and door types, floor plans and security hardware specifications. Reviewers also identified those features that would be unique to each site, including heating and air conditioning systems and foundation designs for varying soil and environmental conditions.

The committee's marked-up drawings were given to a design consultant for conversion into the Auto-CAD format, a format commonly used in the design community. The consultant also layered the drawings to segregate the various building components, such as walls, fixtures, doors, windows, duct work, piping and electrical components.

The result of this effort was "SDD1"--the first set of standardized designs. What began two years earlier as 1,500 drawings and 5,000 pages of specifications on paper for a typical 2,200-bed prison was now on 275 computer floppy disks that could easily fit into an office drawer.

Managing Emerging Changes

As we developed the SDDs, we continuously worked to improve their quality. Because of the volume and complexity of the design changes to be considered, we formed an oversight committee to supervise ongoing refinement of the SDDs. The committee includes members of the department's management, custody and telecommunications staff and the program manager. This broad-based representation ensures that individual interests are balanced and that no single discipline or preference prevails at the expense of another.

The oversight committee's mission is single-minded yet labor-intensive: to produce high-quality SDDs through continual refinement by including design changes made on recently constructed prisons. The greatest challenge in achieving this goal was to establish a process for evaluating and controlling design changes while moving forward expeditiously with the design and construction of new prisons. To make design reviews as painless as possible, two separate review tracks were built into the process: one for specific changes and one for policy changes.

Specific changes. The department's design review team assigned to a specific prison project reviews the site-specific changes identified during construction. They rate the importance and feasibility of suggested modifications. Generally, the further along in the design process, the stricter the standards for incorporating modifications. The changes are incorporated into the specific prison construction project and then given to the oversight committee, which determines whether they will be incorporated into the SDDs.

For example, an error in roof design for snow conditions was discovered during construction of one prison. The design review team incorporated the proposed change into the design for that prison. The oversight committee then reviewed the site-specific change for applicability to prisons located in similar climates in California. Another change involved gypsum board walls installed in prison kitchens. Washing the walls caused the gypsum to deteriorate from exposure to water. The gypsum was replaced with glazed concrete blocks--a feature that was incorporated into the SDDs.

Policy changes. The team assigned to review recommended policy changes deals with more general design features. Again, the suggested changes are ranked in priority and the oversight committee determines which changes will be incorporated into the SDDs.

For example, medical needs in California have changed since the number of tuberculosis cases began increasing. As a result, we raised the number of infirmary isolation cells in each new prison following a review. Similarly, in our experience operating new prisons, we found that buying shorter warranties for fences resulted in higher long-term maintenance costs, so longer fencing warranty requirements were incorporated into the SDDs.

The quality of the SDDs has improved steadily through the review and selection of specific design changes from actual prison projects. In essence, the two processes produce two different results, each of which influences the other. The refinement of the SDDs, which is supervised by the oversight committee, occurs simultaneously with the design and construction of new prisons, which is coordinated by the design review team. Design changes for a specific prison project are considered by the oversight committee, which is responsible for producing improved versions of the SDD.

Keeping Up with Changes In Computer Technology

As we improved the SDDs, we also kept pace with advances in computer technology. The 35 building models, contained on 275 floppy disks, were transferred to a single compact disc, which we see as the preferred medium for the future. The CD, which cannot be altered, contains the drawings and specifications, directions for their use, a library, an index and all the software needed to manipulate the data.

We also use computer technology to compare site-adapted designs for a specific prison project with the SDDs. We created a computer program called "Compare" that uses the most advanced technology available to improve quality control and speed the design review process.

The site-adapted CAD design, developed by the project designer, is loaded into the computer along with the SDD disk. The two designs are overlaid on the computer screen for comparison. On the screen, the SDD drawing appears in blue and the site-adapted design in red. When overlaid, changes are readily apparent and can be analyzed without a labor-intensive, manual review of the documents. As a result, changes made independently by a designer can be identified quickly. The Compare program has proved to be an excellent tool to expedite the regular design review process.

Where do we go next? We do not expect the SDD system alone to eliminate cost and time pressures. In fact, there may be more demands in the future to reduce prison construction and operating costs. Computerized "as-builts"--drawings that show the actual building design as it was built--and "smart" documents are just two applications of new technology that warrant consideration.

Computerized as-builts. We are considering installing computer terminals equipped with Auto-CAD software in the office of each prison's chief of plant operations (CPO). The CPO will be able to access the computerized as-built documents and update the prison's as-built drawings as modifications occur. The CPO would obtain the as-built documents from the master library, ensuring document control and up-to-date maintenance of the facility's as-builts.

Smart documents. Software is available to use CAD to perform material take-offs, prepare schedules and create shop drawings, equipment and material lists and layouts. With the evolution of the design process, we can conduct facility planning to fit equipment and staffing according to space standards. Facility planning can be done on computers, using a physical layout of work space and equipment to determine if the configurations would work. Using software to conduct facility planning would eliminate paperwork.

Who Can Use SDDs?

SDDs are worth considering for state or local governments planning to construct two or more similar facilities. For example, Indiana reviewed our program and with our permission adapted some of our concepts. Other governments have evaluated recently constructed facilities and may decide to convert their designs to an SDD format. Construction consultants specializing in corrections, like our program management firm, have developed the capability to perform computerized design review and modify documents to suit the needs of a particular correctional agency. Conceptual design can be selected from a library of options.

Users of this advanced technology will save time on design and design review. In general, SDD has reduced typical design time by about four months. In addition, more accurate documents can reduce construction costs by reducing change orders and construction claims caused by design errors. Of course, the amount of savings depends on the quality and cost-efficiency of the design itself and efficient management.

Kyle S. McKinsey, deputy director for the California Department of Corrections Health Care Services Division, was deputy director of the Planning and Construction Division from 1986 to 1992. G. Kevin Carruth is deputy director for the department's Planning and Construction Division. He was its assistant deputy director from 1987 to 1992. Members interested in learning more about the agency's use of computer technology may contact the authors at the California Department of Corrections, 1515 S St., P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA 94283-0001.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Annual Issue: Architecture, Construction and Design; designing prison buildings
Author:McKinsey, Kyle S.; Carruth, G. Kevin
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Words:2152
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