Sprung Instant Structures Inc. is a member of the Sprung Group of Companies, which was established in 1887 as a manufacturer of chuck wagon covers, teepees and other shelters. A pioneer in engineered structures, Sprung patented stressed-membrane technology, which utilizes a non-corroding aluminum substructure overlaid with architectural membrane panels placed under high tension.
As jurisdictions struggle to overcome overcrowding, the company has found itself in a position to help alleviate the problem with the quick installation of stressed membrane-structure technology.
Jim Avery, vice president of Sprung Instant Structures, looks at engineered structures in the context of inmate housing pressures and operational space demands, discussing the basics of tensioned-membrane systems as an alternative to conventional methods of correctional facility construction.
Q: In the past, the deployment of engineered structures to relieve acute overcrowding needs or pressing operational issues often served as a marker for future conventional construction by the correctional agency. Are engineered structures still viewed as a short-order, interim fix or have systems moved beyond offering temporary solutions?
A: Looking back, engineered structures were certainly viewed and used as temporary solutions and definitely provided an indicator of what jurisdictions would be looking to construct down the road — our company sales would attest to that — but there has been a bit of an evolution since then.
We were called in when owners had an overcrowding problem and were looking for quick solutions to remedy the situation as soon as possible. But since these systems have been used in temporary locations for some time, owners have realized the structures are more than temporary. The technology has evolved to the point where engineered structures can be as permanent as conventional construction.
It also the speed factor. You can have a new jail up and running in no time, often in less than three months to five months. Of course, the economic climate and budgetary constraints also factor into the trend toward engineered structures as permanent facilities. Projects that people would love to build conventionally are getting put on the shelf, but the need is still there.
Q: What factors should facility owners consider in evaluating temporary/semi-permanent engineered or tensioned-membrane structures as a potential housing solution?
A: A primary consideration for owners should be the classification of inmate to be housed. Our tensioned-membrane structures are typically used for minimum- to medium-security housing. Open dormitory-style interior layouts are particularly common. However, extensive interior build-out is also feasible and readily accomplished.
Q: What other factors should owners/architects look at when evaluating housing solutions?
A: Of course, factors such as construction and operational costs, site restrictions, facility lifecycle and maintenance issues will always be important when weighing different options. When talking about acute overcrowding or pressing operational issues, then project delivery time often proves crucial.
Q: How do engineered structures compare to conventional construction and modular construction housing solutions in terms of project delivery time, construction cost, facility lifecycle, operations and maintenance?
A: In terms of project delivery time, we maintain a large inventory of architectural membrane for the skin, aluminum framing for the substructure, insulation and other components, which helps ensure the fast delivery of systems to the site. Tension-membrane structures can also be erected at a rate of 500 square feet to 1,000 square feet per day, which yields significant advantages over conventional construction methods in terms of project completion time to alleviate overcrowding situations in very short order.
Engineered structures tend to offer a cost-effective solution in comparison to conventional construction methods that can amount to millions of dollars in savings depending on the project size and specifications. Those kinds of savings can also carry over to operational costs.
From an energy-efficiency standpoint, our system integrates 8-inch-thick fiberglass insulation that provides an R-28 value on the sidewall and roof. Like conventional construction, engineered structures can integrate windows, and skylights introduce daylighting and reduce artificial light demands and energy consumption. The long-lasting, rust-resistant aluminum substructure ensures structural integrity is not compromised by moisture or temperature, while the exterior tensioned membrane provides a low-maintenance, weather-resistant, rigid skin.
We talked about the evolution of engineered structures and the installation of systems as a semi-permanent or permanent construction solution.
Q: What about engineered structures versus modular construction solutions, such as precast concrete or prefabricated steel?
A: System delivery and erection times associated with engineered structures, such as tensioned-membrane solutions, compare favorably with modular construction alternatives using precast concrete or prefabricated steel. The tensioned interior liner of membrane structures also eliminates the need for additional interior finishing, including drywall and interior walls.
Q: Can prefabricated cells be incorporated into engineered structures?
A: Prefab cells can easily be incorporated into a tensioned-membrane structure, which can be designed with sufficient peak height and interior clearance to accommodate a broad range of interior configurations and space applications.
Q: In what situations are engineered structures not a viable or suitable solution?
A: Engineered structures are typically not used for maximum-security applications. Conventional construction offers a more appropriate fit for the specific requirements of such settings.
Q: How do tensioned-membrane structures stack up in terms of sustainability and LEED?
A: Many of the qualities inherent in engineered structures align with the credits and prerequisites of the LEED rating system. At Sprung, we have documented aspects of our tensioned-membrane structures that support LEED certification efforts, including recycled content, energy performance and construction waste.
Engineered structures are typically delivered prefabricated, which can substantially reduce the waste associated with facility construction. Additionally, engineered structures, which are designed to be adapted and reused, can be disassembled, reconfigured, expanded or relocated, without the teardown waste of conventional construction.
We’ve already talked about the energy-efficiency performance of engineered structures, which are designed to minimize heating and cooling loads through comprehensive insulation and airtight building envelope seals.
Company Name: Sprung Instant Structures Inc.
Headquarters: West Jordan, Utah
President/CEO: Phil Sprung Jr.
Number of Employees: 225
Telephone: (801) 280-1555
SIC Code: 52110400
Services/Products: Prefabricated buildings
• 2,000-bed processing facility, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, South Texas Detention Complex, Raymondsville, Texas
• 640-bed jail addition, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Office, North Jail Annex, Charlotte, N.C.
• 80-bed community detoxification facility, El Paso County Sheriff Office, Colorado Springs, Co