Last year Travis County realized the need for a new detention facility. Overcrowded jails, existing buildings in poor condition, and temporary variances granted by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards necessitated the major expansion of the County Corrections Center at Del Valle.
Due to a history of cost overruns and numerous change orders on recent projects, the commissioners court and the County Office of Facilities Management sought an alternative to the traditional design/bid procurement method. In February 2005, the Travis County Commissioners Court elected to proceed with a design/build process for construction.
“Like most urban counties, Travis County has encountered great difficulty in bringing in major criminal justice projects on time and within budget,” said County Judge Sam Biscoe. “Hopefully, the use of bridging documents to improve construction planning and monitoring and a design/build approach will enable us to avoid repeating this unfortunate history.”
The county expected the design/build process to provide a firm, all-inclusive price up-front, and a single point of contractual responsibility. It did not choose this course of action to build a “cheap” building. Also, recognizing that a jail is a unique building type with special physical and planning requirements, the county employed a two-step process to ensure that their quality expectations would be met.
The first step was to develop a “bridging document” package, an approach often used in design/build when the owner has very specific needs and quality expectations. Bridging documents clearly define the scope of the project, the construction requirements, and the design standards. These documents include the following components:
Conceptual design plans
Technical design standards
Detailed architectural space program
Room data sheets
Other material describing requirements with which bidders must comply
Travis County issued an RFQ and selected HOK Architects of Dallas in May of 2005 to develop the bridging document package. The HOK team worked closely with representatives of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and Facilities Management Department to review the project needs and direction. The initial needs assessment produced a plan for a 1,688-bed facility with a projected construction cost of $80 million.
To finance this and several other projects, the county developed a substantial bond package for a November referendum. The Travis County Sheriff’s Office, Facility Management Department and HOK team conducted a series of meetings with the commissioners court and a Citizens Bond Committee to review county priorities. These meetings set the jail budget at $63.5 million, of which $23.5 million came from the bond package and $40 million from certificates of obligations that had been previously committed to replace the variance beds. The original plan was then adjusted to include only 1,336 beds, and the bridging document package was modified accordingly.
Step two of the process was to select the design/build team. An RFQ was issued requesting interested parties to submit qualifications focused on experience in building and designing major jail projects. After an evaluation of responses, the competitors have been narrowed to two teams. At press times, both teams had been given an RFP that included the bridging document package, and they are now in the process of developing their bid proposals that include not only the project cost, but also detailed descriptions of their project construction and their management approach. The final selection will be made on a basis of the “best value” to the county.
HOK has been retained to assist the county throughout construction to ensure quality control and compliance with bridging documents.
For more information, contact Edward Spooner, AIA senior vice president and justice director for HOK Architects, of Dallas, at firstname.lastname@example.org.