Design-Build Prison Project

Story by Carl Molesworth | September 28, 2010

The popular image of a prison is that of a massive, intimidating building with bars in the windows and a high wall around the outside. But that's not what Hunt/Lydig, joint venture contractor for the Washington Department of Corrections, is building at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center project in Connell, Wash.

Instead, the Coyote Ridge medium-security facility is taking shape with a campus containing multiple buildings totaling 560,000 square feet on its 60-acre site in the wide-open spaces of Franklin County in central Washington.

The Department of Corrections awarded a $159.9-million design-build contract in May 2006 to Spokane-based Hunt/Lydig to construct the 1,792-bed expansion at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. The project provides space for a growing number of offenders who would otherwise have to be housed out of state.

Work started in late May 2006 with substantial completion expected in October 2008 and final acceptance in December 2008. Totaling 21 buildings, the Coyote Ridge expansion is one of the state's largest design and construction projects and includes housing units, related infrastructure and all of the support space necessary for operations. Future phases will increase the facility to 2,048 beds. These, coupled with 600 existing minimum-security beds at Coyote Ridge, will create one of DOC's largest correctional centers.

From the beginning, Hunt/Lydig has approached the design-build process a little differently than most contractors. In addition to hiring Integrus Architecture PS, of Spokane, to design to project, the contractor brought its subcontractors for mechanical (Apollo Sheet Metal Inc., Kennewick, Wash.) and electrical (Berg Electric, Portland office) installations on board at the creation of the design group.

"Hunt/Lydig chose Berg and Apollo, and let them hire their own designers," said Larry Hueter, DOC's project manager. "It seems to be working out well." Spokane-based MW Engineers is providing electrical and mechanical design for the project.

On the owner side, DOC chose Kevin Loresch to serve as logistics clerk of the works. He was serving as plant manager at the existing Coyote Ridge facility when the project started and has had construction experience during his corrections career.

"Kevin came on early in the development of the project," Hueter said. "His knowledge of offender movement and control was very helpful in producing the requirements-for-proposal documents. If you have a project like this and a Kevin, it can have a monumental effect on the project — especially in design-build. We have a phenomenal program here."

Miles of Pipe

With 400,000 cubic yards of dirt to be moved during cut-and-fill operations to prepare the desert site for construction, the project got off to a quick start in the summer of 2006. Bob Payne, construction manager for Hunt/Lydig, said a large portion of the cut was used to fill a ravine to create an access road. Subcontractor Scarsella Bros. used scrapers and pans for the site work, he added.

Utility installations for water, sewer and power also have been extensive because of the technology-heavy nature of prison facilities, including surveillance, communications and controls. Irrigation trenching was required as well.

"There are miles of major banks with miles of pipe for water, power and the rest," Payne said. "Fifteen to 20 percent of the job is under the ground."

Meanwhile, Franklin County, working with the International Code Council, completed the footing and foundation reviews so that work on the buildings could begin in November 2006.

The list of structures being constructed on the site is impressive. The bulk of the prisoners will be housed in eight medium-security buildings — four hybrid units for long-term offenders with good records requiring a lower level of security, and four units of medium housing where offenders will have less freedom of movement. A 100-bed segregation unit is for offenders requiring intense management, such as new arrivals and prisoners who have had problems. Support structures include an administration building, an inmates' program building, a vocational building, a Corrections Industries building, a cafeteria, and a recreation building.

"I would say this prison has been designed and is currently attaining the cutting edge of technology in security movement, electronics and surveillance," Hueter said. "We have a really good concept. It's a very refined system of incarceration."

It's also environmentally friendly. Payne noted that the facility was mandated to achieve a LEED Silver rating, but the project is tracking for a Gold rating. Contributing to the high rating are a design that allows stormwater to percolate without leaving the site; the use of recycled and renewable building products; and a high-efficiency heat-recovery system.

"We were able to achieve the gold without any unusual efforts because that was the goal from the beginning," Payne added. "This would be the first campus to do that."

Modular Units

Working on the site during the 2006–07 winter was a challenge, but work continued nevertheless, Payne said.

"Everybody knows its going to get cold here, but we had an unusually wet winter," he said. With frost reaching 18 inches deep, crews used ground heaters to keep trench areas defrosted.

"We were able to keep pouring concrete, though maybe a little slower than we wanted," he recalled.

With the arrival of spring, construction of the buildings could begin. Final plan reviews for the buildings were completed in May 2007. All of the prison buildings are divided into two pods for ease of management. The hybrid units are a precast wall design, while the medium housing is built of precast modular cell units stacked two high with precast infill panels. The segregation unit, a five-wing building in the shape of a star, has a precast shell with a panelized steel system by Truss-Built for the cells.

The precast panels in most of the buildings are being supplied by Central Pre-Mix of Spokane, and Oldcastle in Pasco, Wash., is supplying the modular cells.

"They are not simply buildings. The infrastructure is just gigantic," Hueter observed.

To keep up with the project, concrete supplier Connell Sand & Gravel bought a new batch plant for the project, Hueter said.

"They are keeping up with the demand, but we are pressing them," he added.

With a work force on the project peaking at about 300 people, safety has been a big concern for the contractor. When PB&E visited the project in June, it had already passed 100,000 work hours with no accidents and just one minor injury reported.

Cooperation Pays a Bonus

Construction crews reached a milestone on July 25 when a crane dropped in the final set of prison cells for the medium security wing. At that point, the construction was two-thirds complete and roughly six weeks ahead of schedule. Project workers put their signatures on the final piece, and they carried on a Scandinavian tradition of topping it with a tree to ward off evil spirits.

The project schedule called for having all of the buildings constructed by November 2007 to give the contractor a year to complete their interiors plus install sidewalks, security fencing and other details.

"It's not a fast-track job, but it has many of the implications of one," Hueter observed.

The excellent cooperation that has developed out of the design-build relationship is continuing to pay dividends at Coyote Ridge. After the winning bid came in at within 0.04 percent of the estimate, the Legislature decided to fund two extra buildings that originally had been slated for a second phase on the site. Nevertheless, Hunt/Lydig was able to incorporate the additional work into the schedule without extending to completion date.

"That's important because of the need for this facility," Hueter explained. "We'll fill it within six months of opening."

That was possible because of the good relationship that has developed between the owner and the contractor, allowing them to talk freely about issues such as the cost of materials and rising labor costs.

"One cool thing about this project is that we don't avoid conflict," said DOC's Loresch. "We go straight to resolution and don't worry about whose fault a problem is. RFI holds don't get older than eight to 10 days, and field action reports close out within a week. That's very important in a design-build project."

None of this is lost on Jack Olson, project director for the Department of Corrections.

"In 30 years in the business, this is the best and most fun project I've ever been involved in," he said. "The contractor is doing a terrific job."


Project Fast Facts

  • Project cost: about $187 million.
  • The expansion will house an extra 2,048 long-term minimum and medium custody offenders.
  • The expansion will add more than 560,000 square feet to the existing facility.
  • 10,714 cubic yards of concrete for footings, foundations and slabs.
  • 3,278 cubic yards of concrete for precast cells.
  • 6,200 cubic yards of concrete for tilt-up panels.
  • 702,305 square feet of total asphalt.
  • 6,056 feet of exterior fencing.
  • 452,000 cubic yards of soil moved.
  • Maximum cut 12 feet.
  • Maximum fill 14 feet.
  • Scheduled Opening Date: Dec. 31, 2008