Giving Kids a Greater Shot at a Second Chance
Built in the 1970s, the first generation Regional Youth Detention Centers (RYDCs) in Georgia were in desperate need of an update as the existing facilities were causing numerous functional and physical challenges for the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
One of the RYDCs in need of an update was the 26,000-square-foot Wilkes Regional Youth Detention Center located in Washington, Georgia. Working with the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission (GSFIC), DJJ and the design team at Dickinson Architects, the Balfour Beatty team broke ground on the Wilkes RYDC in August 2016. The ultimate goal for the team was to provide a high-quality, high-efficiency youth detention center to serve the needs of the DJJ administrative staff and Georgia youth. The idea was to provide a secure housing facility, yet still, inspire learning.
With the understanding that this facility would need to function at the highest level possible, the Balfour Beatty team began to pre-plan many of the unique aspects of the project to ensure success.
Complex Structural Coordination
Implementing the use of pre-manufactured detention cells and 35,000-pound, tilt-up wall panels for exterior skin required an intense level of structural coordination. With a carefully coordinated site logistics plan in place, the team was able to modify the minimally available site real estate to pour casting beds in a manner that was safe and efficient. Working within a small footprint, the Balfour Beatty team was able to stand the pre-engineered metal building in a two-week timeframe and erect all of the concrete walls with a 250-ton crawler crane in three days. From the seamless erection activities for the building shell to the coordination efforts of the pre-manufactured steel cells that were fabricated months before setting in place, this team aggressively tackled the project on the front end and paved the way to a successful project turnover in Fall of 2017.
Listening Breeds Better Security and Positive End-user Experience
With any RYDC, security is one of the highest priorities. Related systems must operate flawlessly and be understood by the end-users at turnover. A new Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) control system, a touchscreen station that controls and monitors a host of different devices from a single touchscreen, including, but not limited to, locks, intercoms, cameras, officer duress systems and access controls was evaluated for the facility. Understanding this was a crucial component of the safety and security of the new Center, Balfour Beatty hosted an interactive mock-up review session. This session allowed the end-user to engage with the system and provide feedback, which was taken into consideration. All of the requested modifications were accounted for early and implemented into the final product. Throughout the process, team members dedicated time early to exchange ideas, share opinions, voice concerns and agree on solutions tied to the new security systems being considered. As a result of this collaboration, more than 4 weeks was eliminated from the standard review process. The outcome proved worthy, assuring the end-user and design team “wants” were incorporated into the facility.
These conversations also inspired Balfour Beatty to propose a unique layout of the Central Control Room that altered the initial design for maximum efficiency for day-to-day operations. Modifications included a custom millwork layout entailing a control island for the placement of the PLC touchscreens from the most effective vantage point for ease of the constant viewing of the ceiling mounted CCTV monitors. Balfour Beatty meticulously accounted for all the equipment sizes and control feeds to ensure the end-user possessed a clean, finished and durable product thanks to its long-lasting solid surface.
Taking plumbing fixture water control from inmates and putting it back in the hands of the facility operators, while giving the added value of saving time, water and money, the Balfour Beatty team implemented the use of a water management system manufactured by Willoughby Industries. This system manages the overall security fixture water usage by electronic control functions that lockout toilets, sinks and showers from a central PLC while also detecting and preventing toilet overflows.
This facility encompasses an abundance of additional plumbing control valves and access panels for future mechanical, plumbing and electrical access. Access panel locations and all electrical junction box locations were intentionally installed with consideration to the security of the facility and not located within areas readily accessible to the detainees and/or students. Although initial concepts and design layouts were proposed to be grassed and landscaped areas, Balfour Beatty proposed and installed concrete within the perimeter fence locations for purposes of the ease in landscape maintenance as well as the security of the facility and eliminating the potential for creating additional paraphernalia hiding spots.
Durability and Quality Go Hand-in-Hand
In addition, Balfour Beatty was able to offer the client an alternative flooring measure in many additional locations not initially scheduled. The flooring proposed in areas such as holding cells was a seamless resinous flooring system that was capable of withstanding ureic acids and other fluids that a traditional sealed concrete floor could not.
Balfour Beatty installed security sealants at nearly every crack and joint throughout this facility to deliver a product both erring on the side of caution to protect the end-users’ interests, as well as providing a clean and trimmed out product. Security walls were taken very seriously in both topping out of drywall partitions backed with expanded wire mesh and the continual construction monitoring of masonry block walls to ensure the cells were fully grouted and reinforcing had been appropriately installed. The quality control efforts of this project shine through and through to the finished product and inevitably provides a facility and product the end-user will be able to operate efficiently and proudly for many, many years.
Officials agree that upon its opening, this project will signal the beginning of juvenile justice reform in Wilkes County.