Whether you are building a tree house or a high-rise, there will always be challenges that are unique to each project. Jails and prisons certainly have their own unique considerations that go beyond normal building means and methods. These facilities are high-occupancy, high-security buildings that require thicker concrete, higher rated steel, and thicker glass than any other type of building. They also require subcontractors who have experience with these distinctions. In this article, I’d like to lay out five considerations that those who are planning, designing, and managing the construction of a detention facility should weigh.
- Reduce barriers in coordination by seeking out subcontractors who can assume a single point of responsibility. A good example of where this is most beneficial is with those aspects of construction that involve the detention portion of the work, known as the detention equipment. Seek out detention equipment contractors who can offer the whole package, from the locks, doors, windows, security electronics, and even the conduit for these sections. This reduces the amount of coordination that is necessary since all of this work is under one contractor with a single point of contact.
- Seek out contractors who self-perform their work. Many subcontractors simply act as a broker for their vendors. Often times, these broker-types have teflon underwear (nothing sticks to them), simply offloading the blame to their subcontractors and vendors when something goes wrong.
- Schedule (and even require) a pre-construction submittal meeting between the general contractor or Construction Manager and all major trades to review submittal documents in person. This can greatly reduce the submittal time because those involved can “talk it out” in the meeting and more clearly understand the expectations of any changes that are made to the submittals.
- As in #1, keep the conduit closely packaged to the contractor who will be providing the systems to be installed using that conduit. For example, package the conduit for the security electronics system with the Security Electronics Contractor so that this contractor is responsible for his own conduit. Many delays and complications have been created by an unconcerned electrical contractor who did not install the conduit to the pull requirements for the type of wire the system subcontractor needed to pull.
- Where electronics are involved, as in the case of security electronics, ensure that a sealed, air conditioned environment is provided prior to the installation of these systems. All electronics, but especially the computer-based systems like video surveillance systems, require an environment with low humidity and at room-temperature to operate properly.
These are just a few of the many considerations that should be given to a jail or prison construction project, but these five considerations can facilitate a smooth project from beginning to end.