The Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) has the large job of providing oversight of the correctional facilities at nine prisons and 25 community sites across the state. Unfortunately for the IDOC, many of these date back to the 19th century, were overcrowded, or weren’t up to code. And operating these aged buildings while promoting the health and well-being of inmates proved challenging.
The IDOC was already investigating how best to improve this situation when the State of Iowa issued I-JOBS bonds to stimulate the economy and the department secured approximately $300 million for infrastructure projects. One project alone—a new state maximum security penitentiary—was worth $130 million.
Disconnects in Design
Previous attempts to improve facilities had been met with mixed results. Correctional facilities are like small communities containing housing, food services, warehousing, medical clinic, armory, laundry, and more. Each requires highly specialized design knowledge.
To build a new correctional facility, or improve an existing one, department officials coordinate with multiple different parties for design services while providing overall direction.
However, they may have many projects occurring at any given time and they work with multiple external architects and other consultants for the design services on each. No matter what the project, bringing that many people together to create a unified design presents challenges.
“What we found in the past was that so much information is generated in the design phase, but a lot of the detail and sometimes even the program intent was not carried through in the actual construction.” Mickel Edwards, Facilities Engineer with the Iowa Department of Corrections.
In addition, once a building was turned over to the owner, the people charged with running the facilities did not always understand how systems worked because information had not been shared with the end user. For the next round of projects, IDOC was determined to find technical solutions to help resolve these communications issues.
Knowing that building information modeling (BIM) tools worked well for 3D design and visualization, Edwards looked to implement BIM solutions to help make the IDOC more efficient. IDOC requested that all new projects be created using BIM and implemented Autodesk Revit, MEP, and Structure as well as Navisworks in-house.
But before BIM could become the standard, the architects had to be BIM-ready. To accomplish this, the IDOC turned to industry partners for advice on taking advantage of BIM processes for project coordination and getting their staff ready. This included helping them to understand what BIM was, guiding them through developing their own BIM standards and showing them various ways to access the information inside a model so they could share it with others.
“It was important that we knew enough about what a model could do so that we could ask our designers the right questions and get them to prepare the model the way we wanted it,” said Edwards.”
The Benefits of BIM
The impact of the implementation was broad and far-reaching, resulting in a quality model that provided stakeholders with clearer understanding of projects and transparency into use of public funds. The implementation has also resulted in a healthier inmate environment.
BIM helped the Iowa Department of Corrections visualize their new maximum security facility before it was even built, and to minimize non-complaint work across design teams and construction partners. The resulting dynamic model will also provide operational and maintenance savings throughout the life of this new “100-year facility.”