OMK – Orleans Parish Correctional Complex

Leave it to Orleans Parish, which includes New Orleans, to choose the building that includes the kitchen as the first in the Orleans Parish Correctional Complex to construct. But a sound reason to choose the building first is that it also includes much of the infrastructure for the complex.

“We have some facilities that were severely damaged by the floodwaters of Katrina, and we are rebuilding them to the current codes and standards of the American Correctional Association,” Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman declares.

The $76 million kitchen/warehouse is a three-story, 163,885-square-foot precast concrete and steel structure. The new correctional complex’s kitchen, whose staff has won awards for its cooking in the previous facility, will be able to serve more than 25,000 meals in two work shifts. It also will be able to keep prepared meals in its freezer for up to 45 days.

 Included in the structure will be a central power plant that will generate eight megawatts of backup electrical power. That amount of electricity can run 750,000 square feet of office space. The power plant also will provide 6,500 tons of air conditioning, which can cool up to 1 million square feet of space. More than 1 mile of shelving space will be available in the warehouse.

“It’s going a be a major structure that will support the entire facility,” reports Ken Ball, corrections specialist with OMK, which is led by Ozanne Construction Co. as the contracting entity with the sheriff’s office. Ozanne’s subconsultants on the program are Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH) and Kwame Building Group of St. Louis. 

Wiped Out by Flooding

The prison population the complex will support is estimated at 4,500. The Orleans Parish Correctional Complex will centralize operations more than the previous buildings did, which were damaged in the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. The new complex will elevate much equipment above the flood plain that previously was at ground level.

“The sheriff’s facilities were underwater for several days,” Ball says. “Each building had its own backup generator, each building had its own transformer.

“We’re planning for water and wind with a broader brush to make sure we are able to withstand some of the situations that exist in New Orleans,” Ball pledges. “This has given the sheriff the opportunity to do it with a more concise and a total plan in mind rather than piecemeal.”

Due to soil conditions in Orleans Parish and the size of the kitchen/ warehouse structure, more than 900 piles are being driven more than 100 feet down to find solid footing for the building, which will rest on a foundation slab with no basement. “They pretty much set everything on piles in Orleans parish,” Ball notes.

Construction of the kitchen/warehouse building began in March 2010 and is scheduled for completion in late 2012. The general contractor for the project is Woodward Design+Build of New Orleans, which specializes in commercial, industrial, medical and hospitality design and construction. Architects include Sizeler Thompson Brown Architects and Grace & Hebert Architects. 

The next building – which is scheduled to be bid in late summer – will have 1,438 beds for inmates. It also will include an intake and processing center and administrative facilities. It will be six to seven stories tall and be constructed with precast modules, which should speed construction. Ball estimates that it could cost approximately $100 million.

“Construction hopefully will start before the end of the year with anticipated completion in about 26 to 28 months,” Ball says. “Both buildings should be finished in 2012 – real close, within six months or so [of each other].”

Temporary Structures

Because of the devastation from Hurricane Katrina flooding, temporary facilities are being built at the correctional complex to house inmates until the permanent facilities are completed. Among these is a temporary facility that will provide housing for 500 inmates in modules divided into four different buildings of 125 inmates each. The temporary buildings will include central control, video visitation and support services. 

Some existing facilities are being renovated for use while others too damaged are being demolished. Structures built by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be used temporarily during the construction process and then demolished along with additional structures that are now in use once they are replaced by the new buildings. 

 “Temporary housing is needed now and probably will be utilized for the next four to five years as we go through the process of building the new structures,” Ball explains. “It is needed very quickly. We plan to have it up and running in the next six months. It’s a design/build program we’re doing to expedite the process.”

Steel buildings similar to pole structures are being used for the temporary buildings along with sprung structures, which consist of an architectural membrane and an aluminum frame with an insulated cross section.

Approximately 85 percent of the funds for the permanent structures are being provided by FEMA, Gusman says. A bond issued by the Orleans Parish Law Enforcement District is providing another $40 million.

Ball has worked on many correctional facilities, and he says this one is unique primarily because of its large size. “Usually you have one or two people you have to deal with on a site,” he adds. “For this one, we have a roomful of people we have to deal with. 

“What’s the most unique thing is that there are that many players starting to really show that they can work together and support each other in a positive manner. In today’s day and age, that is commendable.”

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