The Wayne County Criminal Justice Center is located in downtown Detroit, Mich., near the Detroit River that separates the United States and Canada. The new complex includes over 1 million ft2SF of space in five buildings: a juvenile detention facility, an adult detention facility, a courthouse, and administrative and utilities buildings. Completed in 2022 at a price of over $530 million, these state-of-the-art facilities are designed for better efficiency and safety of the staff, judges, attorneys, victim’s families, and the accused.
The open-concept pod-layout design, which replaced aging facilities, includes more than 2000 beds in the detention buildings. The five separate structures that comprise the campus are all joined by a precast concrete connector building for transport between structures. The goal was to integrate the precast concrete finishes on the exterior throughout the entire campus, while maximizing the speed and coordination of a total precast concrete systems approach.
The project team selected a complicated architectural finish that featured a combination of white and black tones in a single insulated panel. The insulated, noncomposite, carbon-fiber grid panel is 19 in. wide and includes a total relief on the architectural face that is up to 4 in. thick. While some of the buildings used a total precast concrete system, the buildings housing the sheriff’s office and courthouse have architectural cladding on steel framing. The exterior is a mix of scalloped, precast concrete insulated panels with the same two-color mix of black and white. The use of the scallop in varying directions helps give the structures separate identities while keeping finishes and colors consistent across the campus.
To meet the aggressive project schedule, several structures had to be constructed concurrently by multiple crews on site. Further complicating the project was the use of several casting facilities to maintain the piece count demanded on site each day. Without the use of building information modeling (BIM), coordinating the many complex activities would have been impossible. With the BIM model, all trades had the ability to monitor progress through each phase.
From the initial bid meeting, it was evident that a high level of BIM would be required to successfully deliver the project. From coordination to automation, BIM was pivotal in the project’s success. Initially, it was used to finalize the building footprint and details such as connections, reinforcement, and lifting devices. Ultimately, it was used in all aspects of the precast concrete project.
Referencing BIM standards used by the construction industry, the project stakeholders determined that the specified level of development (LOD) required a high level of clarity and reliability from the shared models. At that level (LOD 400), the model contains sufficient detail and accuracy for the project team to fabricate components directly from the model without referring to other documentation. The BIM model allowed for full project coordination as the team combined three-dimensional (3-D) models, navigated them in real time, and reviewed information to note where clashes or conflicts occurred. The high degree of coordination and communication among all partners ensured that these issues were resolved prior to fabrication.
BIM technologies were also leveraged to automate and digitize functions for sales, management, production, and erection. The BIM model was used as a baseline to validate the estimating process through multiple design iterations to ensure that the precast concrete pricing referenced the latest information. The model was also used to automate drawings for formwork to allow the PCI-certified precast concrete producer to order rubber molds specific to the project with a high degree of confidence. Additionally, the model was used to automate computer-aided manufacturing files used for double tee production. Ultimately, the BIM model facilitated transparency among project stakeholders. The model was color coordinated so everyone could see where each precast concrete piece was in its life cycle of engineering and have high confidence about the production and delivery schedules.
“Precast concrete brought a multitude of benefits to the project, from aesthetics to speed of completion,” says Chad Van Kampen, project manager at Fabcon. The use of BIM across the project allowed coordination of the finishes and exterior fenestration all the way down to pipe penetrations. “The use of precast concrete allowed the project team to fully realize the building and virtually construct it prior to fabrication,” Van Kampen notes.
This complicated 1 million ft2 facility was completed in a very short time but still incorporated a unique architectural scalloped facade. The unique detailing was designed with 3-D technology and proprietary software that meshed with the architectural and engineering models and allowed real-time coordination across all trades. The team was able to minimize the number of iterations required to develop a mock-up through virtual simulation. The BIM software also allowed the fabricator to export form drawings for each panel configuration.