By Joe McKenna
In November 2017, Greene County (Mo.) taxpayers approved a 0.5% general sales tax that included funding, among other things, an expansion of the number of beds in the Greene County Justice Center. N·FORM Architecture was selected as the lead architect with TreanorHL as their jail consultant, and a joint venture of JE Dunn and DeWitt & Associates was selected as the Construction Manager at Risk.
The initial plan was for an addition to the existing jail at the downtown Springfield campus. The problems that were determined from this initial plan included: a) there is very little land available on campus and that limited the building footprint, laydown/staging/storage for construction, County employee parking, and public parking for those conducting business on campus. The Greene County campus is already limited on space and parking, and the Sheriff’s Office occupies 5 buildings on campus in addition to the existing jail; b) the limited building footprint meant a multi-story building (up to 8 floors) to achieve the number of beds desired. The problem with this was it required direct supervision by the detention officers and that, in turn, meant more detention officers and higher staffing costs; and c) the combined cost of the building and Sheriff’s Office staffing exceeded the project budget.
As a solution to the limited space and staffing costs, the County proposed a greenfield site to build the new jail and a Sheriff’s Office. The County Commission approved proceeding with the land purchase in June 2019. The next concern was selecting the type of pre-fabricated cells to bid out to get a vendor online and a production slot. Different facilities were toured by Greene County’s team and it was determined that precast cells offered the best in durability and operational needs (acoustics and chase maintenance) for competitive pricing.
After JE Dunn/DeWitt bid out the precast concrete cell package where Oldcastle was the successful low bidder, the County Commission awarded a partial Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for the precast cell package in July 2019 prior to having a GMP with JE Dunn/DeWitt for the entire project. This allowed Oldcastle to proceed with the shop drawings, value engineering, and production scheduling so when the GMP for the project was approved in March 2020 and site and foundation construction was started, the cells were ready for installation.
The project is moving along quickly with an estimated completion of Spring 2022. Remaining work includes MEP & security systems, finishes, sitework and final testing and inspections.
Teamwork through the Collaborative Process
Greene County officials had the shared goal of being good stewards of taxpayer dollars while also making sure the project met the current and future needs of the community. The desired results were realized through an effective collaboration process when JE Dunn/DeWitt and N·FORM/TreanorHL were added to the team.
The collaborative process utilizes and encourages teamwork, develops deeper levels of cooperation, stimulates information sharing, enhances transparent communication between project members and improves the overall quality and project completion. This minimizes many of the issues around material detailing, availability, installation, and overall timing because the decisions are happening when the project is being built rather than months, or even years, down the road.
The construction and design team immediately engaged with key subcontractors and trade partners via weekly virtual meetings. Working collaboratively as a single contractual team minimized the likelihood of constructability problems or design disputes. It also established a foundation for maximizing the benefits of collaboration from project award through closeout.
JE Dunn Construction/DeWitt & Associates—Construction Managers at Risk
For every project team to be successful, collaboration needs to be at the forefront of the team’s values. This team (Greene County, N·FORM/TreanorHL, JE Dunn/DeWitt, Oldcastle and our Trade Partners) epitomizes the mantra “Teamwork makes the Dream work.” Releasing the Oldcastle Precast cell modules in July 2019 ahead of the final GMP in March 2020 was a perfect example of said mantra. With Greene County’s leadership and trust, this decision put the project team in a position to be successful, to execute the planned project schedule and get ahead of the unforeseen. No one would have known, come March 2020, we would experience the COVID-19 pandemic and shut the country down. Releasing Oldcastle ahead of the overall GMP avoided material price increases that would have been realized on raw materials and finished furniture items within the cell modules. Producing multiple modules off-site in a controlled environment ensured labor consistency, quality control, and safety. This also produces efficiencies on-site with less construction congestion as it relates to material lay-down space, operating equipment, and on-site labor. Not having additional congestion was very beneficial in allowing under-slab plumbing and electrical rough-in to proceed, and to have slabs poured well ahead of precast erection.
Other early major decisions that helped the schedule and GMP includes re-utilizing forms from a previous JE Dunn/Oldcastle project that did not need to be procured or re-fabricated for geometry. The re-used forms still allowed for flexibility in designing multiple cell module types. Agreeing on the back-chase mechanical design in lieu of the front V-chase, provided “total cost of ownership” savings to the client with less maintenance/supervision personnel and reduced safety concerns. The back-chase design also allowed the MEP trade partners to use BIM Modeling and offsite prefabrication to create additional on-site installation efficiencies that saved money for the client.
Having the Oldcastle precast cell modules released early also allowed precast wall panels and hollow core roof planks to continue with design, buyout, and secure production slots. This was critical for having all precast fabricated and ready for erection when needed. The erection plan was based on setting cell modules, wall panels, and hollow core in a continuous operation which was achieved. Erection of all precast components started late August 2020 and was completed in early March 2021. This included 288 cell modules, 920 precast wall panels, 1000 hollow core roof planks, and 163 solid core floor planks. Early release and team collaboration resulted in erection being completed weeks ahead of schedule.
Often, when someone thinks about precast modular cells, they do not consider the solution flexible. At the beginning of the Greene County project, the design team explored a variety of solutions for the jail cells and supporting spaces. Early in the design process, the N·FORM/TreanorHL team reviewed design options with Oldcastle to understand the options of a single modular unit. The team discussed design parameters and the optimal dimensions of the units. With these simple design parameters, eighteen different modular options were developed. These different units all conformed to the design parameters and were the same size unit but were configured from 4-person cells and 2-person cells to shower units, janitor closets, and offices.
The early collaboration between Oldcastle and N·FORM/TreanorHL provided the county modules that met their program and operational needs and allowed the design team flexibility. “I recently read an article that stated that precast concrete cells ‘are not very customizable,” says Andrew Pitts, Principal, TreanorHL. “We found just the opposite working with Oldcastle. The design-assist approach allowed the design team flexibility while maintaining the cost efficiency of the product.”
The Greene County Jail will house approximately 1,200 individuals; 75% of inmates will be in a precast modular cell. The modular cell occupancy varies from 4-person cells and 2-person cells. The 4-person units allow the county to maintain the projected bed needs while reducing initial construction costs. These variations will also provide the county flexibility in the housing layouts and classification of the inmates. A rear chase provides access to the mechanical, plumbing and electrical, with the roof of the chase fabricated as an extension of the ceiling of the upper cell.
Oldcastle Infrastructure—Precast Cell Manufacturer
The results of collaboration are immediately apparent, including accelerated schedule, custom products that can be manufactured only because the team asked the right questions, an installation method that made the field work occur without typical errors or re-work. Sandra Kester, Project Manager with Oldcastle Infrastructure which provided precast housing commented “We provided value to the Greene County project team through design assist services, value engineering, budgeting and schedule development. The collaborative effort between Greene County, JE Dunn/Dewitt and N·FORM/TreanorHL was key to the project’s success focusing on constructability, cost benefits, design flexibility, quality assurance and early procurement. If collaboration is approached properly, the benefits can be critical to a project.”
Oldcastle Infrastructure’s primary role was to supply 288 precast cell modules consisting of 2-Man, 4-Man, Showers, Janitor Closet/Storage Rooms, Janitor/Staff Toilets and REC area. Oldcastle and their vendor partners aided the team with design assist services, value engineering, budgeting and schedule development. The collaborative effort was key to the project’s success focusing towards constructability, cost benefits and schedule enhancements.
The Topeka, KS facility will produce and ship over 100,000 cubic yards of precast concrete products over the course of a year. Plant capacity, quality control programs, committed project staff and a rich history of delivering challenging and complex projects on-time and within budget made Oldcastle Infrastructure a valuable partner.
Joe McKenna serves as business development manager for Oldcastle Infrastructure. For more than 25 years, Oldcastle Infrastructure Modular Group has supplied over 65,000 precast correctional cells for military, federal, state, county and private facilities.
Editor’s note: This article appears in full in the July/August issue of Correctional News