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Women’s detention facility nearing completion

Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility will have more of a campus-like environment when complete.

Construction is complete on the first of the two-phase, award-winning Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee. The $221.5 million project for the county of San Diego Department of General Services consists of 24 buildings across 45 acres with 1,216-beds. It is replacing the county's 1960s-era women's detention and intake facility.

The facility has dining, medical, administrative and security facilities, buildings for inmate industries, a rehabilitation and learning resource center, and a new entrance with expanded parking for staff and visitors. The new complex incorporates a number of design innovations including clusters of smaller-scale housing units that are grouped according to detention levels. They support the varying security classifications and program needs of the inmates. The layout combines use of open space and landscaping amenities to create a campuslike environment.

The design-build project incorporates green building techniques and materials. It is targeting a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The design-build project was assembled by Balfour Beatty Construction with design work by San Francisco-based Kaplan McLaughlin Diaz, executive architect, and San Diego-Based HMC Architects, associate architect.

John Parker, project executive with Balfour Beatty Construction, said the project aims to set 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.”

One of the goals was to develop an environment that would feel more like a campus community and less like a detention facility while never losing sight of key detention facility mandates such as security and safety for the inmates, staff and public. To create a campuslike environment while ensuring key detention facility mandates, the project team brought together a diverse group of designers for site concept “charrettes” to establish the project’s design direction, Parker said.

This approach brought fresh ideas and design models from other projects to create a more standard campus design that feels comfortable inmates and staff. The project won two major awards in 2013, the Academy of Architecture for Justice Facilities Award of Excellence and the Design Build Institute of America Award for Projects in Process.

During the 15 months of construction for Phase 1, the project team logged more than 875,000 hours without lost time or any incidents. Parker said the successful outcome of this safety performance can be attributed to the Balfour Beatty Construction’s dedicated project team and stringent safety standards program called “Zero Harm: Make Safety Personal.”

Unlike traditional safety programs that focus on training superintendents/construction employees and emphasize improvement in on-the-job accident rates, Zero Harm has four goals: zero fatalities or injuries, and no harm to the public or environment.

Construction for Phase 2 of the new women’s detention facility is scheduled to commence in October and be completed in January 2016. It will involve demolition of the existing facility, completion of utility loops and landscaping, construction of Level 2 Minimum Custody Housing and Program Services, and a warehouse. The new Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility is slated to create an estimated 700 jobs and require the services of more than 60 local subcontractors when both phases are finished.

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