One of the best compliments one can give to the team members who designed the new Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility in Detroit is that most people don't know it is there. Even though the facility is located in the downtown "criminal justice area," it is also across the street from a residential neighborhood.
One of the best compliments one can give to the team members who designed the new Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility in Detroit is that most people don’t know it is there. Even though the facility is located in the downtown “criminal justice area,” it is also across the street from a residential neighborhood. Consequently, the facility must not only serve the needs of its residents, but it has to soothe the feelings of wary neighbors.
“It really blends into the neighborhood,” says Alvin Blair, vice president and director of design with Detroit-based BEI Associates, Inc., the lead firm on the project. “A lot of people see it and never know it’s a detention facility. Everyone is happy with it.”
“We had to make the building more user-friendly,” adds Donald Vroom, BEI’s senior vice president and project director. “It’s more like a classroom building you would see on a college campus.”
In a sense, the detention center is a city inside a city. The first floor is “Main Street,” where most of the public functions are conducted, such as admission, classification, hearings and administration. The second floor-or “street”-features two-level housing pods of 20 rooms each, which are grouped around a day room. Other amenities include classrooms, arts-and-crafts rooms, a media and computer center, a gymnasium, a discipline unit and medical- and mental-health facilities.
More than just a place to hold youths before sentencing, the detention facility is also designed to provide therapeutic benefits. For this reason, the design team used skylights and daylighting instead of metal halides wherever possible. The facility’s design also allows detainees to move unaccompanied from the housing areas to the day rooms and indoor recreation facilities, while still maintaining a secure environment.
“These buildings are very important because you’re not just storing kids away but trying to help them,” Vroom says. “In fact, some of them never want to leave. For the first time, they may be in a safe environment, with routine, discipline and three solid meals a day.”
All security features are monitored from the facility’s central control room. This includes 24-hour video surveillance of the main corridor on each “street,” as well as various gathering areas on the second floor. Among the other security measures are:
More than just a security station, the control room also serves as the “nerve center” for all other building functions. For example, staff in the control room can monitor fire and life-safety systems, as well as heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) operations. It also houses a direct-digital control system that allows for both on- and off-site monitoring of HVAC systems. Selected utilities, such as lights, water and power circuits for closed-circuit television, can also be operated remotely through satellite control ports. Meanwhile, an uninterruptible-power supply and backup generator ensure continuous power to all critical functions.
According to Vroom, one of the biggest challenges in the course of project design was coordinating support items, such as ductwork and conduit. “These are things you take for granted in other buildings,” he says. “In a secure facility such as this, it all has to be concealed and inaccessible.”