This article originally appeared in Correctional News on October 2, 2023

Pueblo County Partners With Vanir to Build National Model of Efficiency

County, Project Team Target Net-Zero Energy for New Detention Center

Construction has officially begun on Pueblo County’s new, state-of-the-art detention center. The project – the largest capital expenditure in County history – aims to become the first net-zero energy detention center in the country.

The 188,000-square-foot detention center is being designed and constructed with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind. Key features include:

  • An energy-efficient building envelope that includes R-13-insulated precast wall panels, an R-30-insulated roof system and double-pane, argon-insulated and low-emissivity coated windows
  • Mechanical and plumbing systems, as well as kitchen and staff dining facilities that utilize a combination of Energy Star electrical and natural gas appliances to reduce both energy consumption and long-term energy costs
  • A 2.6 mega-watt PV array that will generate approximately 200% of the facility’s electrical and natural gas usage (the additional energy generated will be net metered and used to offset energy usage by other County-owned facilities)
  • Light earthtone colors for heat rejection

Vanir, a national leader in program, project and construction management (PMCM), has been selected as the County’s owner’s representative, providing planning and PMCM services for the $146 million project. As the first net-zero energy detention facility built in the U.S., Vanir is leading a collaborative design process that requires extensive coordination with Pueblo County, the design team, contractor and local utility companies to ensure that the County Board of Commissioners’ goal of providing a safer, more secure and green environment for its staff and offenders is achieved.

“Coordinating with the sheriff’s staff and Pueblo County management to progress through the design phase has been such a rewarding experience,” said Richard Cox, Senior Construction Manager for Vanir. “Our team is dedicated to delivering projects that provide value to their communities, and we are honored to be a part of helping improve the safety of the detention center’s staff and inmates, as well  as Pueblo County residents.”

Other firms involved with the project include HOK (architect), DKHorn Engineering & Design, Inc. (civil engineer) and JE Dunn Construction (contractor).

Once finished, the new detention center will include a 672-bed, two-level housing unit with a kitchen and laundry room, as well as support spaces for medical and behavioral healthcare, educational programs and property and administrative services. The project also includes training space for the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, extensive site work, secure parking and visitor parking.

The new, modern facility will replace an existing 509-bed, 43-year-old jail.

“Most jails are built to last between 35 and 40 years,” said David Zupan, Senior Project Manager for Pueblo County. “Our current jail opened in 1980 and has reached the end of its effectiveness. It has also been plagued by a series of issues including overcrowding, leaking ceilings, flooding from broken water pipes, cracking walls and discolored tap water.”

Former Pueblo County Commissioner Garrison M. Ortiz also cited ongoing safety and security concerns as one of the driving forces behind the project.

“Everything from drugs to escape attempts,” he said. “The new facility is being designed to maximize security while minimizing staffing requirements by utilizing electronic security and surveillance systems. It will have a strong perimeter and will be built with the best technology.”

The new detention center, which has the ability to expand to approximately 1,120 beds in future years, will also allow for all inmates to be housed in cells. Currently, this isn’t the case for 320 people living in an open dormitory setting.

“This facility truly has the potential to impact Pueblo County in a profound and lasting way – from enhancing the living and working conditions of detention center inmates and staff to increasing facility security, improving resident safety and helping the County achieve its long-term sustainability goals,” said Codi Newsom, P.E., LEED AP, Mountain Region Area Manager for Vanir . “The Vanir team is proud to be part of such a worthwhile and historic project.”