Las Colinas Detention and Re-entry Facility Santee, CA

Las Colinas Detention and Re-entry Facility

Historic project? Check. Zero punch list items? Check. Over 875,000 work hours without a lost time incident? Check.

Historic project? Check. Zero punch list items? Check. Over 875,000 work hours without a lost time incident? Check.

Santee, CA
County of San Diego
Year Completed
LEED Silver
Market Type
Criminal Justice, Green Building
DB Contractor Led

Changing the Conversation about Correctional Facilities

The award-winning Las Colinas Detention and Re-entry Facility is a unique facility based on a non-traditional design that’s changing the way future corrections facilities are built.

The San Diego office provided design-build services to construct the $221.5 million project comprising 25 buildings across 45 acres. The 1,216-bed facility replaces the former 1960s-era complex and serves as the point of intake for women inmates in San Diego County.

Where traditional detention facilities reinforce distance between inmates and society, “normative” facilities like Las Colinas convey an atmosphere of hope while maintaining security, safety, and restraint.
The 460,000-square-foot campus engrosses: new housing, inmate receiving and transfer, visitation, laundry, recreation, religious, dining, medical, administrative, warehouse, buildings for inmate industries, rehabilitation and learning resource center, and new entrance with expanded parking for staff and visitors.

The goal of the design was to create a soothing environment to help reduce recidivism over time. The project sets a new standard for detention facility design that builds on the well-documented precept that the environment cues behavior, and that the character of the site development and the architecture can encourage productive interaction and outcomes.

Design innovations include clusters of smaller-scale housing units that are grouped according to detention levels that support the varying security classifications and programmatic needs of the inmate population. The layout combines open space and landscaping amenities to create a campus-like environment.

The facility was designed by executive architect Kaplan McLaughlin Diaz (KMD) of San Francisco and associate architect is HMC of San Diego. Several green building techniques and materials were incorporated into the project which is targeting LEED® Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Examples include:  

  • Roof-mounted solar hot water panels are used to exceed the County’s requirement for 2.5% onsite renewable energy. Buildings are designed for future photovoltaics wherever possible.
  • Through a combination of an efficient envelope, lighting design, and mechanical system, the project is targeted to achieve a minimum of 20% energy reduction with a potential of 30-35% energy reduction. Potential savings could reach as high as $365,000 per year in electricity and natural gas.
  • Several recycled water lines from Padre Damn are situated adjacent to the site and will provide a 100% recycled water source for site irrigation.
  • Enhanced daylight and acoustic features are incorporated to increase natural daylight in living and work spaces.

“Our design-build team met the County’s goal of building a facility that is safe and secure for inmates, staff, and the public at large.  Additionally, the project finished ahead of schedule, on budget, without a single punch list item, and with all documentation complete,” said Brian Cahill, California Division president. “The zero punch-list at turnover on a project of this size is extremely rare in the construction industry. I’m most proud of the team’s excellence and focus on safety – they logged in over 875,000 man hours without a lost time incident.”

The project has won several prestigious industry honors including:

  • “Build San Diego Award, Unique Special Project” winner from the Associated General Contractors (AGC), San Diego Chapter
  • “Project Achievement Award", Buildings New Construction” from the CMAA
  • “Honorable Mention Project Achievement Award” from the CMAA, San Diego Chapter
  • “Justice Facilities Review Citation” winner from the American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • “Merit Award, Projects in Progress” winner from the Design-Build Institute of America, Western Pacific Region.
  • “Design Excellence Award” winner from the Design Build Institute (DBIA), Western Pacific Region
  • “Design Distinction Award” winner from the Design Build Institute (DBIA), Western Pacific Region

A full list of awards can be viewed here