Precast concrete contributes to the first LEED Gold certification of U.S. correctional facility.
By Sue McCraven
What do 34 states and 14 federal agencies have in common? More and more agencies – even at the county and municipal levels – have mandated that all new construction will comply with green-building and energy-saving policies. These now-routine specifications state that all future projects must achieve some level of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
And this is not a news flash. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the U.S. Navy was the first federal agency to have a project LEED certified (Great Lakes Naval Training Center) 10 years ago. “Sustainable” and “green” are no longer politically correct buzzwords. Marketplace demand for sustainable building now drives the design process for precast specifying engineers, architects and producers who bid on public projects.
Coyote Ridge Correctional Center
Coyote Ridge Correctional Center in Connell, Wash., is owned by the Washington State Department of Corrections (WDOC) and is the first prison facility in the United States to achieve LEED Gold certification. Precast concrete production and material properties contributed to this important accomplishment. In helping to build the first national prison campus to boast this certification, Oldcastle Precast Modular of Telford, Pa., and its sister plant Central Pre-Mix/Prestress in Spokane, Wash., provided the precast concrete cell units and tiltup architectural panels that helped achieve the project’s sustainability goals, including use of local materials and labor.
As a $230 million design/build construction project that began in 2006, the 21 hybrid buildings that comprise the 60-acre (24-hectare) Coyote Ridge site were completed in 2009. This state-of-the-art, mediumsecurity prison contains 578,000 ft2 (53,700 m2) of finished area and can accommodate more than 2,040 inmates (see Figure 1). Coyote Ridge, located about 35 miles (56 km) north of Pasco in the arid central region of Washington, is one of the largest prison projects in the country and the largest non-Department of Transportation project for the state. The prison is considered a model in national correctional construction with numerous innovations from prisoner housing to facility energy savings.
“Washington DOC is a leader in the sustainable prisons movement,” said Eldon Vail, WDOC secretary. “We hope to serve as an example that prisons can be secure and sustainable at the same time.”
David Jansen, WDOC director of capital programs, explains that Coyote Ridge was conceived as a sustainable project early in the planning process. “Coyote Ridge Correctional Center was designed to protect both the public and our environment. We believe that this campus is one of the most humane and environmentally friendly secure facilities in the country.”
LEED and precast product efficiencies
Precast concrete specifiers and producers need to know up front that obtaining LEED certification will require timely responses to numerous owner/agency requests for material and process information. LEED projects are characterized by significantly more paperwork and documentation than that required for conventional precast projects. Oldcastle also complied with the rigorous inspections required by Washington Department of Labor and Industries for Factory Assembled Structures in its production and delivery of the precast housing units.
Oldcastle Modular Precast used molds specifically manufactured for the production of the 256 double cell modules (Figures 2 and 3). Oldcastle used more than 4,200 yd3 (3,200 m3) of concrete to produce the precast modular prison cells in close cooperation with Central Pre-Mix/Prestress, which the produced the architectural precast tilt-up panels (Figure 4). Precast concrete plant production by design – and through rigorous quality control and NPCA plant certification – is very efficient compared with alternative building systems. Exceptional production efficiency is particularly attainable in high-quality, repetitious cell production for correctional facilities. Some of the green advantages of precast systems include:
• Minimum waste: in-plant production efficiencies and reuse of formwork
• Recycled steel reinforcing
• Maximum environmental protection at the building site through minimized on-site construction waste, noise and dust
• Less material used than alternative systems considered to attain same load-bearing capacity
• Energy conservation: the thermal mass and inherent insulating properties of concrete aid in energy savings and modulation of daily temperature swings within the structure
• Local labor and materials mean lower costs for production, delivery, fuel and transport
Oldcastle fabricated 512 single precast concrete prison cells that comprise the two-story, mediumsecurity housing units. The cells were fully outfitted with requisite furnishings, including lights and plumbing fixtures (see Figure 5). Interior cell walls were custom steel-form finished and sandblasted before the walls were rubbed with a cementitious primer coat. After the walls were primed, a two-coat epoxy system with antigraffiti paint was applied. Exterior walls were insulated, and exposed exterior finishes had a smooth, fracturedfin, form liner pattern (see Figure 6). The consistently uniform precast interior and exterior finishes provide the WDOC with a very durable and low-maintenance
The hybrid units are a precast wall design, and the medium-security housing is comprised of precast concrete modular cells stacked two high with precast infill panels. The five-wing segregation unit is star-shaped (see Figure 1) and has a precast concrete shell with a panelized steel system by Truss-Built for the cells.
LEED certification challenging for project team
Coyote Ridge achieved LEED Gold certification with 39 points (see complete LEED point sheet courtesy of WDOC on NPCA’s website at www.precast.org), but not without overcoming inherent challenges for this very specific type of security facility. The project team struggled to balance the needs of overall project sustainability against the essential (mandated) functions of safety and inmate control required for a mediumsecurity correctional facility. Integration of stringent LEED building requirements was difficult to accomplish within the constraints faced by the WDOC for high-density/low-autonomy occupancy in a 24-hour operation environment.
“The way the LEED scoring system is structured, particularly in the case of correctional facilities, a lot of the points can go by the wayside,” says Gerald Winkler, principal with Integrus Architecture. “The basic functions of safety and security in correctional facilities conflict with many of the focus areas and sustainability strategies that are central to LEED certification. It would be great if the LEED rating structure offered a little more latitude and the certification process was a little more flexible and sensitive to the challenges and constraints of corrections,” he added.
“This was a model project where teamwork, cooperation, communication and problem solving were the defining characteristics,” says Jack Olson, WDOC project director. “The team didn’t think only in terms of legal obligations and LEED requirements, they saw the challenges as an opportunity to develop innovative strategies and solutions.” In addition to its sustainable attributes, the precast system offered rapid design/build project completion in 29 months. Olson concludes, “Completion of the project within schedule probably would not have been possible without a precast option.”
Sue McCraven, NPCA senior technical consultant and Precast Solutions editor, is a civil engineer, technical writer and editor, and environmental scientist who has contributed numerous articles and studies to prominent scientific journals.