Correctional facility boasts secure network

A medium-security correctional facility required a secure wireless network that could be designed quickly and transmit through precast construction.

By Don Horkey, PE, LEED AP, DLR Group September 28, 2015

The entire program for this 414,062-sq-ft medium-security correctional facility (a confidential client) will be constructed as one single building, primarily organized around a central hallway running the entire length of the building. The façade facing the public parking lot and serving as the public entry point is designed to provide a nonhostile appearance and greet the visitor. Public access to the facility is limited to the lobby and certain functions on the second level of the facility where visitation and immigration courts are located.

Opening capacity for inmate housing comprises 1,968 beds and is arranged on both sides of the main hallway with either cell or dormitory housing in a two-level configuration around a dayroom. The dayroom opens up on the exterior end to a secure recreation area, open to the outdoors. This setup allows inmates in each housing unit extensive access to the outside without having to leave the observation of the corrections officer in charge of the unit. Ample natural light is provided by the end-wall windows and extensive skylights. The site is master-planned to accommodate an additional building that would contain approximately 1,000 additional beds plus required support spaces.

Segregation housing also is provided with beds for males and females, as well as beds for inmates with mental health needs. The 37-acre site development includes approximately 400 parking stalls for staff, the public, and agency visitors; 42 stalls for transportation vans; and 12 parking spaces for full-size buses used to transport inmates. Space is allocated to expand parking by approximately 70 additional spaces in the event that the facility expansion is constructed.

The project will be developed in two phases. Phase I will be 1,438 general-population beds, which includes 86 segregation beds. The inmate housing will include a  cell-style housing unit, two  dormitory-style housing units, and a cell-style housing unit. Phase II will add a cell-style housing unit and a  dormitory-style housing unit. The infrastructure, site development, and facility support spaces will be sized to accommodate the future build-out.

Facility support spaces include the typical administration and staff support, laundry, intake/release, master control, food service, education, vocational education, library, and recreation. An indoor gymnasium also is provided. Contact visitation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Executive Office for Immigration Review agency offices, and courtrooms are located on the second level of the front portion of the building.

The building complex will be enclosed with a double row of chain-link fences, perimeter-detection system, site lighting, and security-patrol road. Infrastructure to support the entire build-out will be planned as part of the Phase I scope of work.

A secure network

A hybrid wired and wireless open-mesh multi-hop network was designed, and required due to the speed of construction and the extraordinary amount of precast concrete construction for both holding cells and general construction. Wireless control technology at the Tier 3 level minimized construction time and maximized flexibility for phasing and networking timing. Not having to coordinate room sensor location and conduit within the precast allowed the precast contractor to accelerate production and maintain the fast construction schedule. 

Due to the fast-track nature of the project, the owner elected to bid the furniture, fixture, and equipment (FFE) package after construction had started. Using wireless room-temperature sensor technology allowed the design team and owner time to locate sensors in work spaces and public spaces based on how the FFE was laid out in each of the spaces. This flexibility would not have been possible with a wired solution, particularly in precast panels, which would have required the use of surface raceway for sensor relocation.

Due to the sensitive nature of the information this client processes, network security was also a high priority with the BAS network being firewalled behind the client’s network firewall. The BAS resides on the client’s network and used data encryption, mutually authenticated communications, and robust key management, as well as 128-bit advanced encryption standard with protection on both the application and transport layers to maximize security.

Don Horkey is mechanical engineer and principal at DLR Group. He leads the DLR Group mechanical engineering team in Minneapolis, and is a key member of the firm’s building optimization team. He has 20 yr of experience designing BAS for a variety of project types totaling more than 20 million sq ft.