Maintenance Roundup Reflects Variety

By CN Staff

A roundup of the current maintenance scene by CN turned up expert guidance on lighting efficiency, an approach for facilities to fight the heat with summer approaching, and more.

Guidance on Energy-Efficient Lighting for Federal Facilities

GSA’s Green Proving Ground (GPG) program, in collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, recently released LED Lighting and Controls Guidance for Federal Buildings [PDF – 7 MB] as part of the agency’s commitment to sustainability and reducing costs to taxpayers.

Lighting systems have a tremendous impact on building energy use. Depending on a building’s age and lighting system, lighting consumes between 10% and 25% of a building’s electricity. Conversions to LED lighting typically save 50% of electricity over a fluorescent baseline, and lighting controls can save an additional 80% of lighting energy.

In recognition of the energy used by lighting, in September 2022, Congress passed the Bulb Replacement Improving Government with High-Efficiency Technology Act, Pub. L. No. 117-202 (BRIGHT Act) requiring federal buildings to use the most life-cycle cost-effective and energy-efficient lighting products. In addition, the BRIGHT Act required GSA to issue this new guidance on the efficiency, effectiveness, and economy of those products.

Additionally, this guidance supports Presidential Executive Order 14057 on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability and its associated Federal Sustainability Plan, which sets a goal of net-zero operational emissions for the federal government by 2050.

Topics discussed in the guide include:

Financial inputs for lighting decisions.

  • LED lighting and system features.
  • Steps for designing a lighting control system.
  • Energy-savings capabilities.
  • Enhanced performance capabilities.

“The federal government is committed to transitioning its real-estate portfolio to net-zero by 2045, and GSA’s Green Proving Ground program is helping meet that charge,” said Elliot Doomes, Commissioner of GSA’s Public Buildings Service. “GPG’s evaluations of emerging technologies mitigates risk for first movers and provide invaluable guidance on the most effective deployment of these innovations.”

GSA provides centralized procurement and shared services for the federal government, managing a nationwide real estate portfolio of nearly 370 million rentable square feet, overseeing over $100 billion in products and services via federal contracts, and delivering technology services that serve millions of people across dozens of federal agencies. The GPG program works with third-party evaluators to test innovative early commercial building technologies in federally owned buildings. The program enables GSA to make sound investment decisions in next-generation building technologies based on their real-world performance. To date, following favorable evaluation results, 32 GPG-evaluated technologies have been deployed in more than 700 facilities in GSA’s real-estate portfolio. For more information, visit

Keeping Cool When Things Heat Up

While prisons and correctional facilities are not built for comfort, there is a recognition that these locations need some degree of cooling in order to maintain reasonable temperatures. For correctional officers, this is a matter of occupational safety, as they fall under OSHA regulations as well as applicable state codes. For inmates, courts are increasingly declaring that excessive heat may violate the Eighth Amendment.

One challenge is that many older facilities are simply not equipped to provide effective cooling for inmates or staff. Many of these buildings predate WWII, and some date back to the 19th century. For these facilities and even some newer ones, evaporative coolers offer a perfect tool to adequately cool the air for correctional officers and inmates.

Evaporative coolers from manufacturers such as Portacool can cool large quantities of air in situations where traditional air conditioning is either ineffective, inefficient, or impractical.

Although much has been said about aging inmates being a high-risk population, it’s important to note that correctional officers are themselves at very high risk in extreme heat conditions.

Cardiac problems significantly increase the risk of complications from extreme heat.

Unfortunately, correctional officers have a high risk of heart problems. In one study, nearly 40% of correctional officers had high blood pressure (hypertension). In addition, about 50% of correctional officers will die of heart problems within five years of retirement. In fact, they are 25 times more likely to die from heart problems than from the actions of an inmate. In response to this risk, it’s important for corrections and prison systems to try to keep officers cool so they can avoid these risks.

Not only does high heat put correctional officers at risk, but it can also make it hard for them to fulfill their duties. Correctional work requires high alertness and attention to detail. Unfortunately, these are two of the aspects that suffer when a person is in high heat conditions. Under high heat, people find their attention begins to wander, and they lose track of important details. This leads to mistakes. In fact, a NASA study found that people make as much as 12 times more mistakes at 95 degrees F than they do at 80 F. For correctional officers, those mistakes can be dangerous, even deadly.

Evaporative coolers can produce a lot of cool air quickly. They work well in open-air situations where they are drawing directly from the hot outside air. Portable evaporative coolers also don’t need to be installed: they can be wheeled wherever they are needed and require only an outlet to function properly. A water hookup is not necessary, but it can make the evaporative cooler operate all day without additional attention.

Evaporative coolers are especially effective for cooling: Exercise yards, Workshops and Cafeterias. In fact, depending on the size of the unit, they can typically make a difference in almost any space with good access to air.

CIP Participants Help MN Community

A recent effort in the North Star State offers a turnabout of what we typically consider correctional maintenance—where a unique partnership between the Minnesota Department of Corrections and Access North has helped nearly 2,000 families continue to live independently in their homes.

Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) participants from Minnesota Correctional Facility (MCF)-Willow River and MCF-Togo help create accessibility ramps for Access North.

The ramps are prebuilt in modules, comparable in size and structure to deck or dock sections. When a ramp needs to be installed, the build team can select the prebuilt modules of their choosing and take them to the homeowner’s residence. This method is efficient and cost effective.

“The time I spent at Access North was touching and moving due to the fact I was impacted by a similar organization in the Twin Cities that built a ramp for my grandmother which allowed her to continue to live in her home after a stroke,” said Damon Halliburton, a CIP participant in the ramp building program. “Thank you for allowing me the chance to donate some time at your warehouse.”

MCF-Willow River began working with Access North close to 20 years ago and MCF-Togo began participating in these builds in 2016.

Uncut lumber is transported to MCF-Willow River, where the modules are built. Some of the completed modules are transported back to Access North in Hibbing and added to their inventory. MCF-Togo participants are responsible for much of the loading and unloading of materials at the Access North location in Hibbing. They also build various sections and modules as they are needed, and when possible, help with the install or removal of ramps from homes.

The CIP program’s relationship with Access North has helped Northeastern Minnesota families continue to live independently in their homes and creates a meaningful way for participants from CIP to give back to the community.

CDCR Outlines Plans for San Quentin Overhaul

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced in January the San Quentin Transformation Advisory Council (Advisory Council) submitted its independent report aimed at improving public safety in California by reshaping San Quentin into a premier rehabilitation center through a scalable model.

The independent report, which is divided into 11 sections consisting of more than three dozen independent recommendations, calls for expanding rehabilitation and reentry plans, optimizing education and job training programs, and evolving correctional officer training to create a more rehabilitative culture. Among other recommendations, the Advisory Council suggests reducing the size of the incarcerated population to improve programming and outcomes, improve housing for both the population and facility staff, invest in reentry beds, and reduce costs for new construction at San Quentin. The full report and all recommendations can be viewed here.

CDCR is aiming to drive a once-in-a-generation transformation of California’s prison system.

This reimagining is referred to as the California Model: Making safer communities, inside and out. The California Model is a holistic initiative that leverages international, data-backed best practices to improve the well-being of those who live and work at state prisons. For all Californians, the goal is to make communities safer and life better by leveraging data-backed, proven measures to break cycles of crime for the incarcerated population, while improving workplace conditions for institution staff.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Correctional News.