SANTEE, CA—Balfour Beatty Construction hascompleted the first phase of a two-phase contract for design-buildservices to construct the new $221.5 million Las ColinasDetention and Re-entry Facility inSantee, CA, in San Diego County.
Comprising 25 buildings across 45 acres, the1,216-bed facility replaces the former1960s-era complex and serves asthe point of intake for women inmates in San Diego County. Theproject was built on existing and adjacent county property.
“Our design-build team met the County's goal of building a facilitythat is safe and secure for inmates, staff, and the public atlarge. Additionally, the project finished ahead of schedule,on budget, without a single punch list item, and with alldocumentation complete,” said Brian Cahill,division president of Balfour Beatty Construction's Southwestdivision. “The zero punch-list at turnover on a project of thissize is extremely rare in the construction industry. I'm most proudof the team's excellence and focus on safety – they logged in over875,000 man hours without a lost time incident.”
The 460,000-square-foot campus engrosses: new housing, inmatereceiving and transfer, visitation, laundry, recreation, religious,dining, medical, administrative, warehouse, buildings for inmateindustries, rehabilitation and learning resource center, and newentrance with expanded parking for staff and visitors.
The goal of the design was to create a soothingenvironment to help reduce recidivism over time. Theproject sets a new standard for detention facility design thatbuilds on the well-documented precept that the environment cuesbehavior, and that the character of the site development and thearchitecture can encourage productive interaction andoutcomes.
Design innovations include clusters of smaller-scale housing unitsthat are grouped according to detention levels that support thevarying security classifications and programmatic needs of theinmate population. The layout combines open space and landscapingamenities to create a campus-like environment.
The facility was designed by executive architect KaplanMcLaughlin Diaz (KMD) of San Francisco and associatearchitect is HMC of San Diego. Several greenbuilding techniques and materials were incorporated into theproject which is targeting LEED Gold certificationfrom the U.S. Green Building Council. Examples include:

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  • Roof-mounted solar hot water panels are used to exceed theCounty's requirement for 2.5% onsite renewable energy. Buildingsare designed for future photovoltaics wherever possible.

  • Through a combination of an efficient envelope, lighting design,and mechanical system, the project is targeted to achieve a minimumof 20% energy reduction with a potential of 30-35% energyreduction. Potential savings could reach as high as $365,000 peryear in electricity and natural gas.

  • Several recycled water lines from Padre Damn are situatedadjacent to the site and will provide a 100% recycled water sourcefor site irrigation.

  • Enhanced daylight and acoustic features are incorporated toincrease natural daylight in living and work spaces.


In 2013, the project was honored by two prestigious industryorganizations:

  • American Institute of Architects (AIA): “Justice FacilitiesReview citation winner”

  • Design-Build Institute of America, Western Pacific Region – 2013Design-Build Awards program: “Merit Award, Projects inProgress”

“The key to our success was our ability to build a strongcollaboration with the County and their facilities maintenancestaff, the Sheriff's Department users, the owner's consultants, theproject architects, our trade partners, and even the CountyBuilding Department and inspectors,” said JohnParker, project executive for Balfour Beatty Construction.“It was an amazing team effort by everyone involved, andspearheaded by project superintendents, Steve Radford, SeanPhillips, and Jeremiah Sizer.”
“We all broke down traditional barriers by embodying a teamattitude and integrating everyone as critical stakeholders andpartners throughout the entire design and construction process. Infact, we scored 9.7 out of 10 possible points on apartnering scorecard used by the county to rate our performance.Those results speak to the fact that everyone was 100% vested. I'mproud to have been part of this outstanding team, which alsodelivered an exceptionally safe project,” Parker added.

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The project owner also commended the team, “We completed thefirst phase of a very important project through partnering andcollaboration with the entire project team,” said AndrewBohnert, project manager for the County of San Diego.

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David Phillips

David Phillips is a Chicago-based freelance writer and consultant with more than 20 years experience in business and community news. He also has extensive reporting experience in the food manufacturing industry for national trade publications.