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Alternative Energy Resources in Correctional Facilities

November 13th, 2009

There is recently massive support and funding by the U.S. government to increase the energy efficiency of large public and municipal facilities. These facilities can benefit financially from the governments greening initiatives, cash to help improve sustainability otherwise losing a return-on-investment, by implementing environmentally friendly practices and technologies within the building design.

Making a correctional facility more environmentally friendly could be a challenging task when taking into account security and regulatory restrictions. Specific problems include: geographic location, elevated energy and water consumption and material choices. Fortunately, however, diverse solutions can bring the corrections industry into the green age.

Geographic location

Correction facilities devour extensive amounts of green space due to large parking lots, the extensive size of the building, bare recreation yards and security parameters with limited natural visual barriers.  Building on brownfield sites such as abandoned industrial facilities and landfills is just the solution in rural areas. In urban areas, erecting a correction facility on a public transportation route can reduce the amount of parking traffic and thus reduce the need for a land-consuming parking lot.

Water consumption

The need for water increases as penal populations escalate. From showers, laundry and kitchens, a lot of water is consumed within prison walls. By implementing PC-based water systems, security is able to control individual or group plumbing fixtures in a cell or cells, group showers or individual showers to reduce and manage water usage. Using treated recovered water gathered from rain and air handler condensation for toilet flushing will reduce the consumption of potable water.

Energy consumption

Correctional facilities endure strict limitations on natural lighting options due to security and, by nature of the 24/7 operation needs, require immense amount of energy. Using high-mass construction such as precast concrete takes advantage of thermal inertia to regulate the internal temperatures, or implementing a radiant heating and cooling system within the walls or floor and design a tight, energy-efficient building envelope will generate operational savings.

Material

Material choice for penal facilities is limited due to strict maintenance and security requirements. Building designers can maximize the amount of recycled content in materials traditionally used such as steel and concrete containing fly ash.

Check out our next blog on alternative energy resources that are available and being used.

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