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Home > Uncategorized > A Step Toward Environmentally-Friendly Prisons: Applying LEED to Correctional Facility Design

A Step Toward Environmentally-Friendly Prisons: Applying LEED to Correctional Facility Design

November 10th, 2009

The fundamental nature of penal facilities does not easily lend itself to sustainability. With construction costs rising, everything a facility owner can do to reduce life-cycle cost and represent sound financial stewardship of tax payer dollars is essential. By implementing Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) into sustainable strategies for a facility, the owner has taken the first step toward a building that will operate more efficiently and reduce cost. LEED is a set of standards that qualify and guide greener building designs.

LEED was created by the U.S. Green Building Council to enhance environmentally sustainable construction. LEED qualified buildings attain points by applying various elements within six interrelated categories:

  1. sustainable sites,
  2. water efficiency,
  3. energy and atmosphere,
  4. materials and resources,
  5. indoor environmental quality and
  6. innovation and design process

Totaled points result in one of either four levels of accreditation.

Using LEED as a guide to building a sustainable building is only a small part of creating an environmentally friendly facility and is not a one-size-fits-all program. Prison architects and designers need to work with the guidelines to build a strategy that works for the long-term sustainability of each unique prison. Several correctional facilities are already LEED approved as designers and architects understood and applied various sustainable systems meeting the unique needs of each facility.

  • Federal Correctional Institution #3, in Butner, N.C., was the first federal prison project to earn LEED certification. This project is an example of how simple energy and water efficiency strategies can significantly impact a build’s resource consumption. The energy model completed during the design phase of the facility predicted energy efficiency strategies would result in a 31 percent decrease in energy costs. For the approximately 530,000-square-foot facility, annual savings would total to $137,000.
  • In Minnesota, Blue Earth County’s new justice center, opened in March of this year, is also LEED certified. The center, which includes a 125-bed county jail, sheriff’s department, county attorney and corrections department and courts, utilizes a ground source heat pump as well as recycled and local building materials. The greener applications added $400,000 dollars to the upfront cost. Administrators plan to regain that cost via better operating efficiencies in seven years.
  • In Washington State, an executive order mandates LEED Silver-rated public facilities. Clearly understanding the long-term pay off of green construction, Washington State Prison, a nearly $500 million dollar project, was the first of its size and type awarded Silver LEED. Through a tight coalition of designers and builders, the 270,000 square foot facility implemented energy efficient equipment and responsible site development.

Although the return on investments resides more on the social side, it is clear that implementing alternative energy resources is an important component for environmentally -friendly prisons.

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