Jail Expansion Uses Concrete Forms

HOLDREGE, Neb. – To speed construction on a $4.7 million jail addition for Phelps County, Sopris Architecture and the general contractor, Newstrom Davis, used insulated concrete forms to build the walls, floors and roof.

David Koenck of Sopris Architecture says the forms “stack up like Legos” and have a high R-value. Concrete was poured directly into the forms. Interior walls were finished with a reinforced 3/8-inch hard coat stucco system, and the use of concrete masonry units was kept to a minimum, except in the jail area.

When it came to designing the addition, one of the biggest challenges was ensuring that the structure would blend in with the existing courthouse, built in 1913. A boxy, modern building would have been completely out of place, so Koenck planned an addition that would echo the design of the existing structure.

Koenck described the original building as “kind of like a layer cake.” It had a stone base and was faced with brick, and the arched entranceway was accented with Corinthian columns, while the roofline was decorated with cornices and moldings. Koenck designed the addition with the same brick and stone. However, he didn’t want the new entrance to detract from the original entrance, so he designed a modified arch and decided against the columns. The roof contained some of the same design details.

The jail expansion matched the original courthouse so well, said Koenck, that many in the community said it didn't look like a jail.

Inside, the jail was designed around the central control room. The men's facilities were on one side and the women's were on the other, separated by a long hallway. Here, the challenge was complying with a Nebraska regulation dictating that male and female inmates not see each other when escorted down the hall to the dayrooms or exercise room.

In past designs, Koenck tried using reflective glass to limit visibility, but sometimes, the lighting conditions could allow inmates to see. He ended up with a low-tech solution: curtains. When inmates walk down the hall, a curtain can be drawn to block the view so that inmates of the opposite sex don't start to jeer and catcall.

The new jail holds 49 inmates, up from a maximum capacity of 14, and is expected to serve the county's needs through 2020. The court, the sheriff's office and the jail are now all under one roof, creating a complete justice facility for the county.

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