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Open-and-Shut Case for Design/Build

An A-Team of Design/Build experts fulfills a project requiring cost control, fast-track scheduling, and high-efficiency boiler installations.

Doing work for the state and doing time for the state can both be difficult.

Most Design/Build contractors know the potential pitfalls involved with taking on government projects. There's much paperwork, and many rules, and guidelines in addition to project challenges of deadlines, change orders, and coordinating work with other trades.

Design/Build engineers KAI Design & Build, St. Louis, MO, is no stranger to government projects, having worked with the State of Missouri's Division of Facility Management several times in the past.

Other key players in this project were the HVAC contractor/systems installer, U.S. Engineering, Kansas City, MO; design firm DLR Group, Overland Park, KS; and JE Dunn Construction Co., Kansas City, MO, leader of the design teams.

Promod Kumar, P.E., KAI's project manager, and principal in charge of the project, knows that the saving grace in such work is often the human face attached to the state's contract.

As the company designed the mechanical systems for the state's new Chillicothe Correctional Center, Kumar and the team from KAI were fortunate that their key state contact was John Hequembourg, project manager, division of Facilities Management.

“John Hequembourg helped keep everything under control to make sure things were accomplished within the proper period of time and within the budget,” Kumar says. “He did a great job of keeping everyone — including the state — moving along in the right direction.”

Mutiple-use Areas, Differing Requirements

The 430,000 sq.ft., $110 million, state-of-the-art women's prison consists of five butterfly-shaped housing units that have the capacity to hold up to 1,636 inmates. It provides services to female offenders in substance abuse treatment, academic education, and re-entry services.

In addition to the housing units, the campus also includes a central plant to house the facility's mechanical systems; an administrative segregation and mental health building; a reception and diagnostic center with a medical wing; a central services building housing the facility's education, recreational and industrial training areas; a greenhouse; gymnasium; beauty shop; religious center; library; bakery; cosmetology lab; and administration building.

State of Missouri officials were instrumental in setting the standards and quality control methods of the final product by providing guidance and recommendations throughout the project, according to Kumar.

“Numerous team meetings were held to maintain the level of design and to ensure that the project was staying on course,” he says.

KAI Design & Build designed the central plant, administrative segregation and mental health building, the reception and diagnostic center with the medical wing, central services building, and the greenhouse. The remaining key design elements were handled by the DLR design team. An independent state agency was put in charge of reviewing all drawings and installation of the HVAC system during construction for increased quality control.

“All the members of the Design/Build team worked together from the beginning of the facility's design conception through to the final day of construction to ensure better cost controls, eliminate costly change orders, guarantee quality work, and ensure that the project was completed within its fast-track schedule,” Kumar says.

“There has to be a lot of interaction between the installers and the engineers during the design process,” adds Justin Apprill, chief procurement officer for U.S. Engineering. “That takes place between the installer, the mechanical subcontractor and the mechanical engineer; and also between the mechanical engineer and the architect and general contractor. The entire team has to be communicating consistently.”

Life-cycle Costs Trump First Cost

Providing an energy-efficient HVAC system for the medium-security facility was a priority for state officials. To address the state's requirements, KAI engineers designed the facility's central plant to provide an optimum level of energy efficiency through the use of high efficiency, condensing, dual-fuel boilers. They included a factory management panel that maintains efficient boiler firing rates and controls the domestic water heating system.

In addition, variable-speed chillers, variable-frequency system pumps with two-way valves, and energy recovery air handling systems are all part of the design.

“The condensing boilers we selected and the variable-speed drives for the chilled and hot water systems were a little more expensive than a more traditional system in terms of first cost, but the state did a good job of understanding the lower life-cycle costs they ultimately provide,” Kumar says.

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“We had proposed more traditional efficiency boilers, which is what the state had requested. However, during the design phase, the entire team worked with the state in exploring more energy efficient solutions, which resulted in using the high-efficiency boilers. That created a fast-track boiler plant design, construction, and start-up. It was a benefit for the owner,” says Justin Apprill, chief procurement officer for U.S. Engineering.

Maintaining overall campus security was an important aspect of the work on this project. One feature that affected the HVAC design was the buildings' roof areas, which are designed with little to no roof equipment to reduce clutter and minimize areas where individuals could hide. The design of the campus utility water distribution loop posed particular challenges, which included incorporating piping access, minimizing piping losses, and determining location to the buildings.

KAI designed the central utility loop 12- to 16-ft. above grade, rather than underground, which allowed for identifying any problems quickly and easing access for repairs. The design also uses building structures at the entrances and exits of the buildings to help support the loop.

Outstanding Indoor Air Quality

The comfort conditions for each building and area within the complex are defined by the occupancy for that area. Comfort conditions for all areas were met, according to state correctional facility requirements. The indoor air quality (IAQ) for the complex is based on the number of air changes and the quality of the outside air. IAQ at the prison meets or exceeds state requirements for comparable facilities.

“From a mechanical systems standpoint, the state has been trying to encourage energy efficiency in all their projects,” Kumar says. “So we were looking at what we wanted to do in terms of energy efficiency from the very start. We think we designed a great system for this facility, and we did it within a very tight time frame.

“The state is a good customer of ours, and they asked if we could bring the facility to completion in 16 months rather than their initial requirement of 24. When a good customer asks, you do your best to deliver.”

Inmates at the Chillicothe Correctional Center can appreciate the difference between 16 months and 24. Although no one may necessarily wish to be there, the team from KAI Design & Build, in cooperation with the project's other engineers and contractors, ensured that the facility would be as comfortable as possible for the inmates, and as energy efficient as possible for the state.

Winners at a Glance:


KAI Design & Build,
St. Louis, MO; U.S. Engineering, Kansas
City, MO; DLR Group, Overland Park, KS;
J.E. Dunn, Kansas City, MO


Chillicothe Correctional Center, Chillicothe, MO

TOTAL COST: $20 million


  • 9 AERCO natural gas/propane boilers
  • 9 AERCO boiler management system with combination control panel
  • 3 Carrier XRV chillers
  • 3 Marley cooling towers
  • 3 Armstrong primary chilled water pumps, two secondary chilled water pumps, three condenser water pumps and two hot water primary pumps
  • 2 Cemline domestic water heater/storage tanks
  • 2 Bell and Gossett water-to-water brazed heat exchangers
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