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Nine steps to a successful prison construction project.

The success or failure of a prison construction project often is decided before the first shovel breaks ground. The principal determining factor, as with every type of endeavor, is how meticulously it is planned.

The preconstruction process is particularly critical in prison construction because of diversified building requirements, integration of complex security equipment and the often accelerated schedules mandated by court order. Working closely with an agency, the construction management and architectural/engineering teams analyze every aspect of the design to ensure that it meets the project's planned objectives, while devising ways to save the agency time and money. Preconstruction is so integral to the construction of a correctional facility that if the project team fulfills every one of its functions, the success of the effort can be assured from the outset.

To illustrate the nine most important services that comprise the preconstruction process, we will use as an example the construction of the Women's Correctional Facility in Niantic, Conn., a multiple classification facility that is tripling its capacity while saving millions of dollars and eight months in construction time by employing these methods.

Currently 14 percent under budget, the three-phase, $55 million project is adding 18 buildings totaling 390,000 square feet to the existing complex. The effort includes construction of a 700-bed facility in three dormitory buildings; recreational, dining, laundry and kitchen facilities; prison industry work spaces; classroom areas; an administration and visitation center; and a medical and psychiatric center. The facility will be completed in the fall.

1. Analyze design for constructability and project delivery. Throughout the preconstruction process, the project team members must think through the entire project in their minds and on paper hundreds of times before construction begins. They must consider every possible obstacle, such as the probability of severe winter weather or potential delays caused by the unavailability of a specific type of building material. Each possible scenario is explored and plans are made to mitigate any problems.

For the Connecticut facility, the team explored using precast concrete cells vs. standard masonry construction and examined the benefits of employing one general contractor vs. multiple prime contractors. The construction manager also used a sitework package that allowed workers to complete sitework and nearly all foundations during the time the design was being finalized, cutting eight months off the schedule.

Analyzing a prison design in terms of security issues is one of the preconstruction team's most important functions. It is a natural tendency when designing a correctional facility to err on the side of safety, thus employing an excessive amount of barriers and detention hardware that may be a waste of money and may even interfere with correctional operations.

2. Work with the design team and owner. Bringing the construction management team onto the project from its inception creates a team mentality. It allows a free exchange of ideas while the design is still in its conceptual phase and throughout the various stages of design drawings, without creating an adversarial relationship between the architectural/engineering team and the construction team. Before work has begun, design alterations or material substitutions can be more easily incorporated without causing delays or incurring additional costs. Moreover, this early analysis often results in critical time and money savings.

This policy of open dialogue among team members was particularly effective during the Niantic project's planning stages because the facility's unusual security requirements demanded an especially creative approach. Inmates at the complex currently are housed in small "cottages" located on an open campus (without a perimeter fence) set on the natural countryside. Like most women's prisons, however, the facility houses the full range of security classifications, and this design presents significant drawbacks and operational difficulties for the higher risk inmates. The design for the new facilities is intended to provide a secure environment for medium and maximum security classifications, having all the structures enclosed within a high security perimeter. Therefore, the design and selection of security systems and devices posed special challenges for the project team - to create a secure prison, while preserving the campus-style environment.

3. Conduct a thorough value engineering review. One of the most important facets of the preconstruction process is the value engineering review, during which the design details, specifications of materials and equipment, and intricacies of the logistics plan are carefully analyzed to uncover areas where more cost-efficient or more functional options are available.

For example, after exhaustive analysis of the Niantic project, the construction manager and architect provided the state with a list of prospective project alterations and modifications, along with their corresponding cost savings, which would reduce the prison's construction cost. The state then chose these options:

* to eliminate construction of the ceiling in the recreational building and instead paint the duct work;

* to construct the perimeter security fence at the beginning of the project instead of building a temporary construction fence;

* to substitute vinyl tile for brick tile in the dining areas; and

* to reroute the water mains and thermal distribution lines in a more direct path.

Combined, these value engineering alternatives saved the state $4 million without compromising the project's integrity.

4. Identify long-lead items and critical items. The construction manager and architect identify up front the items that are not readily available, as well as critical items that will delay the project if they are not in place at the specified time.

The Niantic project schedule accounted for items requiring an extended fabrication time. For example, while foundations were being constructed, long-lead items like detention equipment were being fabricated off-site and security hardware and detention hollow metal were on order. The ability to ensure the early delivery of detention devices such as sliders and paracentric locks led to a secure installation and a timely progression of the masonry work.

In addition, the project's large high-voltage electric transformers require an eight- to 10-month lead time. To proceed with construction in the interim, technical specialists equipped the site with temporary electric power necessary to operate the mechanical and construction equipment and lighting.

5. Review documents for completeness and interdisciplinary coordination. A major function of the construction manager is to ensure that the design documents are complete and that the trades - mechanical, electrical, plumbing, structural and architectural - are in sync. The construction team uses transparent, color-coded overlays of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing drawings over the architectural floor plan to ensure that each trade is coordinated. For example, are the roof openings on the mechanical drawings also shown on the structural drawings? And will the specified power feeds have the proper voltage and amperage to run the mechanical equipment?

The team also confirms that all the building equipment specified can be housed in its proper space. For instance, will all of the mechanical equipment fit into the mechanical room? Often, oversights such as these can cause cost overruns and schedule delays.

6. Develop a comprehensive logistics plan. Before construction, it is imperative to develop a comprehensive logistics plan. Examples include the sequence of erection for each building and phasing schemes. This process is never more important than when expanding a prison facility. One of the preconstruction team's most important goals is to devise the most effective construction plan without jeopardizing prison security.

At Niantic, the construction manager must ensure that every worker at the site, from skilled tradesmen to laborers, passes a security clearance several days before entering the site, and each must carry a picture ID at all times. All equipment and material deliveries must be scheduled in advance and must be made on time. These high-security considerations mandate that the project team be extremely organized and efficient.

7. Develop a comprehensive schedule. The Niantic project's master schedule tracks more than 3,000 individual activities, including every submittal, approvals by the architect, off-site fabrication and installation, erection and field work. The schedule most closely follows the critical items - items that if delayed will stall the entire project.

To meet the specialized needs of the Connecticut Department of Public Works and the prison administration, the construction team divided the scope of work into four building groups and planned each on a different construction pace. For example, Building Group D, which represents 25 percent of the building space and includes the administration building, central kitchen and laundry/maintenance spaces, will be completed four months before the total project completion, while Group B buildings (recreation, operations, dining and family visiting) will be turned over 10 weeks ahead of time. This process will allow prison management to set up its administrative offices, start up the kitchen, hire vendors and install the laundry equipment before the new imnates arrive. It also will enable current inmates to begin using these support services immediately upon completion.

8. Encourage local business participation. Enlisting local businesses, either through the direct hiring of local subcontractors or through the use of local building materials, stimulates project support. At Niantic, the project was broken down into $3 million to $5 million contract packages, allowing local firms to competitively bid on them. As a result, 10 out of the 12 primary contractors are Connecticut-based firms.

Furthermore, the initial plan specified the use of precast concrete cells that would be trucked in from out-of-state. After careful analysis, the team opted to use masonry, which costs the same but employs local labor.

9. Implement proactive budget controls. The team established a baseline budget as early in the process as possible. Then, as each level of design drawings is completed (for example, when the design development drawings are updated from the first set of conceptual drawings), the construction manager conducts a complete budget analysis, then supplies the agency with an updated cost report that itemizes every new budget change, along with an explanation for each.

During the construction process, the construction team must contain costs - not simply track them - for the owner. This is accomplished by employing an expert field staff that continuously monitors all change orders, responds to claims immediately and is trained in persuasive negotiations.

Richard Piotrowski is deputy commissioner of facilities design and construction for the Connecticut Department of Public Works. Daniel P. McQuade is vice president of correctional facilities for Tishman Construction Corporation.
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.

Article Details
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Author:Piotrowski, Richard; McQuade, Daniel P.
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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