Q&A: First SB 81 Facility Built Weighs in a Year Later
By Jessie Fetterling (05/07/2014)

MODESTO, Calif. — The Stanislaus County Juvenile Commitment Facility opened almost a year ago in early June as the first juvenile facility built since the passage of SB 81, also known as the Juvenile Justice Realignment bill.

The $16.2 million, 47,207-square-foot facility houses a 30-bed and 15-bed unit for boys and a 15-bed housing unit for girls. It features classrooms, a multipurpose gymnasium, visitation area, full-service kitchen, culinary instructional classroom, program rooms and a secure recreation yard. San Francisco-based Lionakis served as the architect of record.

Correctional News spoke with Maynard Feist, AIA, LEED AP, associate principal for Lionakis, about the design of the facility and its influence on the future of SB 81 projects.

Q: What was the main goal of the project?

Feist: As one of several populous counties in California, Stanislaus was the only county without a commitment facility for minors. The county needed a separate and distinct facility to accommodate committed youth separate from the Juvenile Hall for focused programs, mixed genders and classifications. One of the county’s primary goals for their new facility was to provide a variety of academic and vocational programs with a campus feeling, integrating the housing with these programs. The county was committed to minimizing the institution feel and promoting a more normative environment to reduce the stress of detention and place the focus on rehabilitation. Inside, the environment invokes a sense of calm.

Q: What are the key design elements involved in the project?

Feist: The new commitment facility is an extension of the existing juvenile justice campus. To maximize the state financing and developed site area, our project incorporated functional areas that also benefited the adjacent Juvenile Hall. A new central kitchen and indoor recreation were incorporated to support the campus. The indoor recreation space is essentially multipurpose and also serves as the campus visitation area. Although an independent and secure facility, the new project is connected to the existing Juvenile Hall via a secure covered walkway system to facilitate deliveries of food service, movement of wards to recreation and visitation, probation and service providers, and shared support services between the two facilities. The county wanted an academic campus feeling in a safe and secure environment. In support of this goal, a concept of distinct functional zones connected by a secure corridor was developed so that minors could move between activities with minimal supervision. The zones identified were housing, education, vocational training, indoor and outdoor recreation, contact visitation, facility administration and a new commercial kitchen to serve both the new and existing facilities. Each zone uses colors, patterns, materials and textures appropriate for the activities and to reduce the institutional feeling.

Q: What are the key green building elements?

Feist: Although the county was not seeking LEED certification, sustainable design principles and elements were incorporated where feasible. The primary project goal was to maximize the amount of natural light into the facility to reduce artificial lighting in most areas. The project utilized an abundance of natural light through high wall and clerestory windows in all of the housing, classrooms, kitchen and indoor recreation areas.

Another goal was to reduce energy and water consumption, and providing a high thermal mass envelope was the first step to reducing energy use. Incorporating foamed insulated concrete masonry units throughout the facility really emphasized the goal of increasing thermal mass and reducing energy costs with a secure and durable material. Incorporating LED lighting in select areas, advanced energy management controls and low-flow water fixtures were all a testament to achieving sound design principles in an appropriate environment.

Q: What were some of the major challenges on the project?

Feist: The project was awarded SB 81 funding through a competitive state process. Stanislaus County was the first county in the state to go through the Lease Revenue Bond funding for juvenile facilities with the various state agencies and approvals and agreements were not even developed as the project documents were nearing completion. All of this was done at a time when the county and design team understood that accelerating the process would result in favorable bids during a down construction market.

During initial programming, it was determined that the commitment center should benefit the entire juvenile campus by sharing program elements. We identified several deficient areas at the existing Juvenile Hall such as the kitchen, indoor recreation and visitation areas that our new facility could supplement. A critical aspect of the project was restrictions of the funding source and the requirement that a new facility not be physically attached to the existing facility. The available site area required a new and separate public front for the commitment center to accommodate product deliveries, family visitation and service providers. The design solution was a clear and understandable site arrangement that locates the public spaces to the east side of campus, to utilize the existing drive and secure outdoor spaces next to existing Juvenile Hall on the west side of parcel. A secure covered walkway structure connects the new facility to the existing, allowing staff, wards and food deliveries to have controlled access. The large outdoor recreation yard is located adjacent to the existing facility and accommodates a planned future expansion to the center.

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