Prison Design Goes Green

Katy Rank Lev, 08.06.10, 03:10 PM EDT

Architecture firm HOK Atlanta

works to increase efficiency while cutting costs.

It seems like everyone is conscious of energy usage these days, prison designers included. Architecture firm HOK Atlanta is working to design correctional facilities that lower water and energy usage, saving taxpayer dollars as well as reducing carbon footprints.

HOK’s “justice architect,” John Eisenlau, told the Atlanta Constitution Journal that energy use is a huge issue in correctional facilities. Nationwide, a handful of design firms are snapping up contracts to revamp prison design, this time with a green hue. Eisenlau’s company designs buildings with more insulation, reflective roofs and many other features in an attempt to create the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified detention facility in Georgia.

Butner Federal Prison in North Carolinamade headlines last year not only for housing Bernie Madoff, but also because it had become the nation’s first LEED-certified correctional facility. Since that time, the correctional industry has made great strides in sustainability. Eisenlau told Correctional News that many major cities are concerned with infrastructural and energy issues and that prison design plays a huge part of that.

Rather than focus on retro-fitting older buildings, HOK focuses on making sure new buildings maximize orientation and water reclamation, use eco-friendly construction materials, and even have green roofs in some locations. Eisenlau told the Atlanta Constitution Journal that his company uses geothermal systems and engineering systems to save energy and operational costs.

The topic of sustainability is “in vogue” with decision-makers right now, Eisenlau told the newspaper that this is “a new era for architects to work in this kind of environment,” because smart design decreases the bottom line for strapped budgets.

In addition to concerns of efficiency and cost, HOK tries to make its correctional facilities “good-looking,” and less like a “bunker,” design choices that gain approval largely because they are presented as less expensive to operate because of “correct” design. It is not necessary to cut programs for inmates in order to save money. Instead, prisons need to reconsider the concrete block buildings and inefficient high-rise designs. Changing building design can make a prison “faster and easier to maintain.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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