Sustainable Correctional Facilities


As a result of the political and economic events of recent years, governmental revenues available for correctional facilities’ construction and operation have steadily declined. To continue providing value to our clients, correctional facilities designers must adapt to the constraints imposed by reduced funding. By providing high-value design services, creative engineering practices can keep both first costs and operating costs reasonable.

chiller room

Outside Air Pretreatment

Housing a wide array of functions that are heavy users of outside air, correctional facilities are good candidates for heat recovery technologies such as molecular sieve heat wheels and refrigerant reheat systems. Recapturing a significant portion of the energy already expended to perform a required heating or cooling task is foundational to true energy conservation. In addition to lowering operating costs over the lifespan of the facility, incorporating heat recovery systems into correctional facility designs can offer complementary opportunities to both downsize central plant equipment and reduce first costs. Ancillary benefits achieved by outside air pretreatment include a significant reduction in growth media for mold spores and a marked improvement in indoor air quality.

outside air pretreatment = significant reduction in mold growth.

HVAC and Life Safety Systems Integration

Because correctional facility inmates are frequently denied the mobility needed to escape dangers presented by fire and smoke, engineered life safety systems must maintain a viable environment within the secure perimeter under a wide range of conditions. First, by utilizing design features that allow certain items of equipment to perform dual duty, cost savings can be reaped with no reduction in life safety performance. The configuration of housing unit HVAC systems, wherein return air fans can also function as emergency smoke exhaust fans, saves construction dollars that would otherwise be spent on additional equipment and the space to house that equipment.

prison reception

Maintenance-friendly MEP Systems

Perhaps no other building type presents the potential maintenance problems posed by correctional facilities. The primary source of such problems is embodied in the very reason for the existence of the facility: the inmate population. Highly focused attention must be concentrated on the design of MEP systems to avoid as many inmate-initiated maintenance events as possible, as well as, enable the facility staff to quickly and efficiently clear any anticipated system malfunction. Key elements in this methodology include a closely scrutinized design process, design validation by field mock-up construction, and design of highly repetitive assemblies to secure the cost effectiveness of shop pre-fabrication.

Robustness of Construction

Correctional facilities typically have anticipated life spans two to three times those of most other building types. Although construction funds may be limited at the time the facility is built, the cost of construction for renovations or repairs will escalate far more rapidly throughout the building’s useful life than will the revenues available to finance those activities. Two ways to avoid this inherent dilemma are to design a high degree of robustness into the initial MEP systems (thus taking advantage of the lowest unit cost available at any time during the facility’s life) and to amortize the cost of future repairs and renovations with the operating cost savings generated by the energy conservation measures prudently incorporated into the original design.

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