KCI Technologies Inc.: Prince George’s County Public Safety Complex
New construction of a government building
Engineering firm: KCI Technologies Inc.
2015 MEP Giants rank: 98
Project: Prince George’s County Public Safety Complex
Address: Hyattsville, Md., United States
Building type: Government building/military facility
Project type: New construction
Engineering services: Automation, controls; Electrical, power; Fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; Lighting; Plumbing, piping
Project timeline: 2/1/2014 to 5/30/2015
MEP/FP budget: $816,000
No matter the size, every emergency is a local event, meaning that every county, city, borough, and town needs to consider preparedness. When Prince George’s County wanted to quickly build a new public-safety complex, they worked with technology integrator and advisor Motorola Solutions to assemble a design-build team familiar with their needs. KCI Technologies is serving as engineer of record for the facility alongside Widewaters Construction Inc. and Smolen-Emr-Ilkovich Architects (SEI). All four firms previously worked together on the county’s primary 911 call center located in Bowie, Md.
The new 46,000-sq-ft building will house several county departments, including Homeland Security’s emergency management office, a backup 911 call center, the office of human resource management’s public-safety investigations division, and a state-of-the-art emergency operations center.
“Prince George’s County faces various emergencies and disasters every year, and it is imperative that we provide our emergency team with advanced technology and facilities they need to do their jobs,” said County Executive Rushern L. Baker III. “This new facility will help us save lives and build on our successful record of responding and supporting residents during emergencies.”
Together, architects and engineers incorporated a host of unique site and building features to support emergency operations, while also working to meet the aggressive schedule. Technical challenges included integrated public access and media support, functional redundancy to ensure continuous operations, and equipment sizing for a facility that is ordinarily half-full, but must be ready for full occupancy in times of crisis.
The team strategized with regulatory authorities from the outset of the project to address permitting, one of the most significant challenges to the schedule. The county elected to pursue a grading permit first, followed by a standard base building permit for the building shell, and then permitting for tenant fit-out. Reviewers have been involved throughout project development, meeting with designers regularly. This permit sequence allowed crews to expedite site work and building construction while design was still ongoing.
The firms also worked together to identify materials required for construction, including the unique features required to support the specialized functionality of an emergency operations center. Motorola and Widewaters developed a detailed list of preselected fixtures and equipment to eliminate time-consuming reviews of subcontractor-proposed equivalencies during bidding and inspection. Although setting a baseline specification as a general contractor is unusual—normally, subcontractors can bid on and install comparable products—in this instance it expedited completion of design drawings without open-ended questions about mechanical and telecommunications components, lighting, paint, carpet, and other finishes. Motorola and Widewaters also were able to work with manufacturers and distributors to identify and pre-order equipment with long lead times.
Coordination between technical disciplines also had a significant impact on schedule. The team elected to model nearly all aspects of the project using Autodesk Revit so that engineers and architects could coordinate their designs every step of the way. Autodesk Navisworks was also employed to facilitate quality control efforts. Virtual walk-throughs were analyzed on a regular basis to identify conflicts and evaluate constructability. “It also allowed us to collaborate with the owner and for them to see and tour the building from an end-user standpoint,” said Widewaters Project Manager Andrew Saskowski. “Their input could be incorporated earlier in the design process, reducing change requests that might cause delays later on.”
Engineers worked with the team to address each specific technical challenge.
Public access and media—A very integrated set of meeting and reception spaces provide public access within the lobby area. Remote pedestal connections and underground cabling from the press room to the parking lot can support news vans during press conferences and broadcasts.
Redundancy—Certain emergency situations may require the public-safety complex to operate around the clock for extended periods of time. To ensure that level of service, duplication of critical components and functions are built into the design. Heating, cooling, power, life safety, and telecommunications systems incorporate varying levels of redundancy to maintain uninterrupted service.
Equipment sizing—While the mixed-use facility will ordinarily be only half-full, the building systems required careful consideration to support high-occupancy rates and equipment loads during an active public emergency. HVAC, power, telecommunications, and other systemic needs were calculated under both scenarios to balance equipment size, redundancy, and the ability to quickly increase service. Components were sized for the largest demand and then modularized to support day-to-day and expanded operations, with a goal of avoiding oversized, underused equipment that ultimately increases lifecycle costs.