Salt Lake City Regent Street by SHOKO SMITH

Regent Street Project Manager Jesse Allen, an architect and landscape architect with GSBS Architects, led a select team to design and create the space which is wrapping up its final stages of construction on Regent Street, and which is highlighted in this post by Salt Lake City Magazine. Allen said the unique mid-block street’s look and function was designed to celebrate its rich history and create a destination downtown.  While it still allows cars and even occasional semi-truck deliveries to the new Theater, it is intended as a place for people and is generating a rhythm of its own.

Read the full article.

Radical Shift in Utah's New Prison Design: Not a Box Within a Box by SHOKO SMITH

New theories about prisoner rehabilitation are helping to guide the design of Utah's new prison in Salt Lake City.  Kevin Miller, president of GSBS Architects, told the Deseret News the new facility is in line with the state’s Criminal Justice Reinvestment Initiative to facilitate successful inmate rehabilitation.   In the article, Eric Schulzke reports “The new theory involves a focus on inmates as human beings — rather than as storage units. “The fundamental question,” Miller said, “is how do the humans interact?” And the answer, he says, is that they need more healthy interaction with officers and with other inmates.”

Why Utah's new prison design is cutting edge

Utah’s current prison in Draper is steel gray and massive inside. As if from a scene in a dystopian film, long rows of clamorous cell blocks recede into the distance with four vertigo-inducing levels of cells hovering overhead, all lit with harsh fluorescent lights.

The state's new prison, however, will look very different, starting with a more human scale, according to planners. Smaller units set on just two floors will all open onto a day room. Cells will be angled to capture natural light from large windows in the commons area with colored walls, while windowed doors on cells replace gray steel bars.

Scheduled to open near the Salt Lake Airport in 2020, the new 4,000-bed prison will also function very differently from the facility it replaces. And while much remains to be determined, the watchwords of “humane” and “normalizing” are guiding the way, say the architects, designers and corrections officials planning the new facility.

These changes are only part of the story of how the new facility is being designed to further the state's Justice Reinvestment Initiative, launched in 2015 to reduce incarceration levels by changing the lives of inmates. The initiative calls for better educational and occupational programs, and these, too, are part of the design.

Utah's prison, notes Stephen Carter, founder and vice president at CGL, the Florida-based consulting firm that helped plan the new Utah facility, is part of an evolving worldwide discourse on prison design. Where past generations of prisons sought to warehouse inmates with token efforts at reform, the new generation puts successful transitions to society as the top priority. This means changes in look and feel, as well as in programs offered and the attitudes of staff and correctional officers.

The radical theory of the new prisons is that inmates who live in a normal environment adjust more quickly to normal life upon release. It begins with architecture — including the experiences of light, sound, color, better noise control and more natural views in yards and through windows.

But the new thinking also extends to personal, eating and sleeping spaces, exercise, interaction with prison staff, routines of learning and work, and more natural movement through a community.

“If we start with the stereotypes that prisoners are evil monsters who deserve penal hell holes, we’ll take the same failed approach, but if we design prisons that look more like colleges, then we can start seeing prisoners as people with potential," said Yvonne Jewkes, a criminologist at the University of Brighton in the U.K. and a key voice in the emerging international conversation on prison design.

That community of experts will be closely watching Utah's new prison, one of the largest and most ambitious projects to date. Utah new facility is, quite literally, the "next big thing," the boldest effort to date to combine a massive, centralized facility with the new principles of prison design.  

Not everyone will agree about the results, and some experts are already arguing that Utah could be even more bold in smoothing the path to change and recovery.

Light, space, color

While details remain in flux, the new prison's planners say they expect the Utah facility to lean heavily on recent “best in class” models that emphasize more natural scale, color and light.

One inspiration for Utah’s new design is the Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility in San Diego County, California, which opened in 2014. Las Colinas feels like a very nice college campus, with large windows, cheerful interior color schemes, noise proofing, and murals on the walls.

Outside, Las Colinas sports walkways through lawns with natural landscaping, hedges and trees. There is even an outdoor amphitheater. Landscaping required special consideration, Carter said, noting, for instance, they had to make sure the mulch was chopped finely enough that its shards could not serve as weapons.

Carter was heavily involved with Las Colinas from the beginning, working with San Diego County as early as 1999 on its master plan, and then returning to help the county frame its proposal for a cutting-edge facility for women.

“We translate policy, space and behavior into architecture,” Carter said, describing his company’s role.

He worked with San Diego officials and KMD and HMC, two nationally prominent architectural firms, to develop concepts that allow the women to “develop a daily routine, take responsibility for their own choices, make class schedules, make medical appointments, and move freely across the campus to appointments, events and classes.”

How far Utah’s planners will be able to go in the direction of Las Colinas is uncertain. A smaller facility designed for low-risk women on a generous budget, the San Diego facility sets a standard for amenities and openness that Utah cannot hope to match. Trees will be out of the question for Utah, Miller acknowledges.

But Las Colinas is not alone. It’s part of an international movement away from stark utilitarian prisons and toward the use of natural light, space and color.

Scandinavian countries are leaders in this movement, and the Rolls Royce of the world's maximum security prisons is thought to be Halden Prison, set within a forest along Norway's southern border with Sweden. Widely hailed as the "most humane prison in the world," Halden houses roughly 250 of the most serious offenders.

Unlike most U.S. prisons, Halden sports large windows with ample views of evergreen trees within the grounds, bright rooms with plenty of natural light, and modern, comfortable furniture. Halden looks more like a college dorm than a maximum security prison. The fence is overshadowed by tall evergreens inside and outside the barrier. Prisoners get their food from a prison grocery store and cook it in communal kitchens, though kitchen knives are firmly cabled to the walls.

“Halden is a humane prison, but we should be wary of saying that it is the model prison that all others should aspire to,” said Jewkes, who spent several weeks doing research at Halden last year.

Halden is not necessarily as idyllic as all that, she says. Many prisoners only spend one hour a day outside, and only in the smaller yards adjoining their building, not amongst the evergreens. The therapeutic garden is underused because they lack staff to accompany the men in the garden, and the jogging track, widely cited as a key feature, is for staff only. And, because it is so expensive, at over $80,000 per inmate per year, Jewkes said, officials in Norway tell her they will not be building any more Haldens.

Needless to say, anyone hoping for Utah to be Halden writ large is bound to be disappointed. But the general model — light and color, green spaces, artwork and even normal activities like cooking for oneself — do reflect the front edge of prison innovation. And Utah will be judged by the international community, in part, by how well it captures this new direction.

Human interaction

The most radical shift in Utah's new prison design, however, is not visible design but the interactions and routines the new structure allows.

“The old model is basically a box inside of a box,” said Kevin Miller, CEO of GSBS architects, the local design firm for the new prison. “You put the prisoners inside the inner box and the guards watch them from the outer box, making as little contact with the prisoners as possible. You can imagine how dehumanizing that is.”

Known as indirect supervision, this approach isolates inmates from officers, limiting risk but also essentially turning much of prison control over to inmates. In American prisons, inmates and their gangs typically provide much of the social control (and chaos) themselves.

The new theory involves a focus on inmates as human beings — rather than as storage units. “The fundamental question,” Miller said, “is how do the humans interact?” And the answer, he says, is that they need more healthy interaction with officers and with other inmates.

In the new Utah prison, Miller said, cells will be arranged around “day rooms,” and officers will interact one-on-one and with groups, having exchanges with inmates throughout the day. “One way to control inmates,” Miller said, “is to get to know them well enough that you know what’s going on and can see when they are upset.”

Small communities

Utah is following international innovations in architecture and supervision models, but in at least one area it is cutting new ground.

The new prison will be the first to combine the economies of scale available from large size and centralized services with smaller, segregated communities that serve specific needs. Just as a large university offers cultural and academic amenities not found at a small college, Utah’s prison planners believe they will be able to offer top quality education, occupational training and health care at scale, while still separating populations that need to be handled differently.

Built around a main street and a hub of administrative and medical facilities, the prison will consist of smaller communities carved from the general prison population. These include separate buildings for different groups, ranging from maximum security to female inmates, from those preparing to re-enter society to addiction and behavior therapeutic communities. Women, the mentally ill and therapeutic communities will have “sight and sound” separation from the noisier and harsher general population.

These smaller communities are critical to the success of the state’s justice reinvestment program, Miller said, and separating therapeutic communities from the general population will allow the new skills and commitments those inmates learn to take root.

The general prison population will be separated into two nearly identical units. This will allow prisoners to be safely separated from those who might hurt them, without putting either party into restrictive isolation.

The general population also has a complete “step down” program, Miller said, which means that entering prisoners will start in a highly controlled environment but move into more comfortable living arrangements with good behavior.

Pushing boundaries

Utah’s natural light and commons areas will be a huge leap forward from the long gray rows at Draper, but it will not be a Halden or even a Las Colinas, and many wish it would push the boundaries further.

One of those is Elizabeth Grant, an architectural anthropologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia, who holds that most prisoners can both handle and benefit from more freedom than we tend to give them.

Grant gives grudging respect to efforts like Las Colinas. But she wonders why new prisons like Utah's couldn't adopt a less punitive approach for those who earn the privilege. The key, Grant argues, is to give inmates a normalcy that many of them have never experienced to better prepare them for both responsibility and trust when they leave.

"Trust begets trust," Grant says.

She points to the Boronia Pre-Release Center for Women in Perth, Australia — a grassy open campus of cottages without walls, where women live and cook together in small groups, one of several cottage-based correctional facilities in Australia and Grant’s preferred approach.

A similar women's prison has long been operating here in the U.S. For over 30 years, on a green campus with lush lawns and trees, Shakopee Women's Prison did not even have a fence. Signs posted outside a low hedge blandly intoned, “Minnesota Correctional Facility — NO TRESPASSING.”

And as with Boronia, when Shakopee did finally put up a fence last year, Carter says it was mainly to keep people out. Kids on their way to school had been cutting through the facility.

Nor is Shakopee reserved for light offenses or pre-release. It typically houses up to 100 murderers among its 600 women prisoners. In the past 20 years, there have been 16 escapes from the wide open prison, but all were quickly apprehended.

The key to the freedom at Shakopee, Carter says, is that the women there earn the privilege, and they recognize that Minnesota has much tougher places they could go if they fail.

Carter embraces Grant’s general aspirations. But of necessity, he has to pick his fights and temper his expectations. He knows that costs will always be a factor, and that the safety of staff and inmates is paramount.

"My next windmill is private toilets," Carter said. He says there are models in Canada and Europe that show private toilets can be built for not much more space or money and without compromising security.

"If you have two people sharing a bedroom,” Carter says, “then having a toilet at the head of the bed is really not terribly humane.”

Record Energy Savings Achieved at Public Safety Building by SHOKO SMITH

Recently compiled data proves conclusively that Salt Lake City's new Public Safety Building will use no more energy than it creates.  In fact,  since the building was occupied in 2013, efforts by Salt Lake City with support from GSBS Architects, have reduced the building’s measured energy consumption to match, and even exceed, levels predicted during design.

According to Garth Shaw, Director of Sustainability forGSBS Architects,  fine tuning improvements have elevated the building’s energy performance to a level matched by none. The building now scores 100 with the nationally-recognized energy benchmarking tool Energy Star. “This score indicates that no other building in its class consume less energy,” he said.  “The building’s energy footprint has also been reduced to a level where it is now on track to meet the city’s ultimate goal of an energy (and carbon) neutral project.”      

• The building has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 48%;
• Energy costs have been reduced by 36%; and
• The average building of this type uses 266% more energy.

Not only has the building achieved record-breaking energy efficiency, it is being hailed by Urban Lands Magazine (Feb. 2017) in its world-wide list of 10 outstanding government buildings.  The article identifies design features that balance significant security elements (that tend to shut out the public) with a transparency in aesthetic and experience that promote interaction and visitor engagement. The project’s ability to function after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, resist significant domestic terror threats, and produce enough renewable energy each year to offset its consumption also secured its position on Urban Land magazine’s list. 

Kevin Miller, President of GSBS Architects, said the team of architects designed it to compliment the area of downtown Salt Lake City which is home to the historic City and County Building, the State Courts Building and Salt Lake City Public Library.  “A campus feeling was requested and we created welcoming outdoor space to accommodate large public events which spill over several blocks,” Miller said.

The approximately $80 million Public Safety Building, home to the fire and police departments,  functions as the nerve center for addressing all citywide emergencies. It even anticipates a 7.5 seismic event that is predicted to hit Utah's highly populated Wasatch Front. This requires the building to not only be designed to immediate occupancy seismic standards in order to continue to operate through the seismic event, but it is able to do so separately from the electrical grid.

ENVE Manufacturing Building in Ogden Opened March 9 by SHOKO SMITH

The Building Reflects the Corporate Culture and High Quality of Bicycle Wheels and Components

ENVE Composites celebrated its 10-year anniversary in Ogden by cutting the ribbon on its newly constructed, 73,000-square-foot corporate headquarters and production facility, designed by GSBS Architects.  ENVE manufactures high-end, carbon fiber bicycle wheels and components.

During the ribbon cutting ceremony, President and CEO Sarah Lehman stressed the collaboration between Owner, architect, and contractor resulted in a new building which has helped the firm increase production four-fold.  She said the building reflects the ENVE image outwardly and reinforces their culture inwardly. 

In addition, ENVE completely revamped their process to allow for single rim production instead of batch production.  A huge step forward for their ability to meet specific customer requests.

In a Deseret News, March 9 article headlined “New facility highlights Ogden economic growth, the paper reported, “ ENVE officials say the new facility is of the most advanced cycling component manufacturing setups in the world and is also the first and anchor tenant of Ogden's new Business Exchange.”

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Sunnyvale Community Center by SHOKO SMITH

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Along a busy stretch of 39th South near 6th west in Salt Lake County, The Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center is tucked among warehouses and small manufacturing businesses.   Here, a growing number ofrefugees and immigrants residing in the Sunnyvale Neighborhood receive English language classes, after-school programs, and other services. 

Local architects, like GSBS’ Soonju Kwon, Tang Yang and Kevin Miller, and engineers provided design services, permitting and construction assistance to add 1,350 square feet to the Center.  This additional flexible space will help the Center continue to provide services and programs that benefit the refugee and immigrant community.

According to Soonju Kwon, the center, which was first located in a two bedroom apartment in the Sunnyvale Apartment Complex, relocated to the strip center, and now has expanded to serve people living nearby. She said members of the firm worked in cooperation with the Refugee and Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah which operates the Center, Salt Lake County, and other businesses which volunteered their services, including VBFA and Manuel Masbernat who volunteered the engineering consulting.

Kwon said services at the Center include English classes, afterschool programs, citizenship classes, financial literacy workshops, mobile health clinics, nutrition education and more. “In the summer, they even have a farmers market and meat vendor which is supported by a USDA grant, to provide fresh produce and meat to the residents which don't have a full-service grocery store in the neighborhood,” she said.

Residents face many barriers created by this location in the intersection of four cities (South Salt Lake, Murray, Taylorsville, and Unincorporated Millcreek) and the unincorporated area of Salt Lake County. 

Salt Lake County's Community Innovation Manager, Ze Min Xiao, said the location means the area falls outside the service areas for funding from those cities.  Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center was formed to bridge this gap. The County provided $100,000 last year to enhance services in the area,  but she said businesses like GSBS Architects who provide pro bono services help us to extend the opportunities.  She said nearly 13% of SLC County's population is foreign born and the goal is to help them succeed. She said,  “The county recognizes the potential of the neighborhood, and county and private resources are needed help these 'New Americans' succeed.”

ENR Announces Awards for Best Projects by SHOKO SMITH

Two GSBS projects have been selected by ENR Magazine as winners in the ENR 2016 Best Projects Awards in the Mountain States region of Utah, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.  ENR provides news, features and information in all facets of the development, design and construction marketplace.

ENR Mountain States magazine 2016 Best Projects award winners will be recognized at the Best Projects breakfast award ceremonies in Salt Lake City on Oct. 25.

In the most recent issue, ENR wrote this about the two winning GSBS projects.

In Speciality Constracting:   The Summit at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, Snowbird, Utah  
·     First-place winner in the Specialty Construction category, entry submitted by Layton
      Construction Co.
·     Owner: Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort
·     Architect: GSBS Architects
·     Completion: Nov. 2015

The Summit is a 23,000 SF guest-services building and mountain restaurant located at 11,000 feet at the top of Hidden Peak. The restaurant facilities have dramatically improved the guest experience at the top of the mountain. The building has three levels, with dining and kitchen facilities, employee spaces and mechanical systems at the basement level.

The first floor includes the main dining hall with 190 seats, a cafeteria, kitchen storage and service areas, restrooms and an outdoor deck. The second floor is a private dining area with 180 seats, reception and service areas and two outdoor decks. Work took place over two summer seasons because of the limited mountain construction time

In Manufacturing:  Cabela's Distribution Center
·     First-place winner in the Manufacturing category, entry submitted by Big-D Construction Co.
·     Owner: Cabela's
·     Architect: GSBS Architects
·     Completion: August 2015

Cabela’s,  one of the nation’s largest outdoor retailers built, this new 600,030 SF distribution center located in Tooele, Utah.  The new building is a concrete, tilt-up structure with open web steel roof joists, girders and deck.   The clear height within the structure is approximately 30’.  GSBS designed the envelope and the structural system to accommodate and compliment the racking system and to comply with the 2012 Energy Code recently adopted by the State of Utah. 

The principal warehouse is 490’ x 1,232’ encompassing approximately 554,370 SF on the ground level.  Additional spaces include a maintenance shop, shipping and receiving areas and a 30,000 sf single-story administration office, bringing the total square footage to 600,030 SF. 

According to ENR's editor, a panel of judges from all areas of the industry—architects, GCs and engineers—selected winners in each of categories. 

GSBS Architects Designing 4 New Buildings for Business Depot Ogden by SHOKO SMITH

Businesses are growing and expanding at Business Depot Ogden (BDO), a 1,118-acre master planned business park with 500 build-to-suit available acres.    A major participant in this activity is GSBS Architects who have been engaged again to design four new industrial projects at BDO for national production and distribution chains, totaling 1,064,000 square feet.  These four projects will push the total industrial space at BDO to over 13,500,000 square feet. All of them will be completed by next fall.

Two of the new projects are new businesses at BDO, formerly a military installation which was transferred to the City of Ogden in 1997 and is managed by the Boyer Company.  GSBS Architects has had enjoyed a long and productive relationship with BDO and the City of Ogden since 2002.   

A recent article in the Ogden Standard Examiner  (10/31/16) written by columnist Mark Saal, reported:

“Tom Christopulos, director of community and economic development for the city, says Business Depot Ogden has been recognized both nationally and internationally for its successes. In 2012, the project received an award from the International Economic Development Council for being one of the top public-private ventures in the world.”

ReaderLink is the largest full-service distributor of hardcover, trade and paperback books to non-trade channel booksellers in North America.  Their project relocates their western distribution center from Clearfield to BDO and adds 500,000 square feet of rail-served distribution space to their national distribution network with facilities in Virginia, Indiana, and Illinois. 

Honeyville, Inc, a family owned and operated milling company, produces grains and seeds, flours and mixes, bakery ingredients and dried foods, including a full line of gluten free products.  They have plants in Utah, Arizona and California.  This new 192,000 square foot production and distribution facility will consolidate much of their Utah operations under one roof.

Two other projects are in design and permit stage and include a 262,000 square foot, rail-served lumber distribution facility and a 110,000 square foot expansion of an existing minus ten degree cold storage and distribution facility.

Since Ogden purchased the complex, BDO has improved the infrastructure and has added 23 new buildings totaling nearly 5 million square feet thanks to a prime location in the Crossroads of the West and access to a highly skilled and educated workforce. These new, light industrial, warehouse and distribution buildings have grown the capacity of the BDO to over 12 million square feet.  GSBS has been responsible for all but 3 of the new construction projects.  Businesses located at BDO collectivelyemploy a work force of over 4,500 people.  

“It’s been kind of a model that’s being used in other places,” Christopulos said. “We’re 20 years ahead of schedule, and we’re that far ahead in revenue projections. It’s as near a perfect project as I’ve ever been involved in.” (excerpted from The Ogden Standard Examiner,  “Business Depot Ogden continues to grow ahead of schedule” 10/31/16.)

Project to Watch: Utah State Prison Design to Emphasize Rehabilitation by SHOKO SMITH

The main design goal of the new Utah state prison in Salt Lake City is to focus on rehabilitation, normalizing day-to-day life for inmates. Photo Credit: Conceptual Rendering by Prison Relocation Commission

The main design goal of the new Utah state prison in Salt Lake City is to focus on rehabilitation, normalizing day-to-day life for inmates. Photo Credit: Conceptual Rendering by Prison Relocation Commission

SALT LAKE CITY — Locally based GSBS Architects, designing the new Utah state prison in Salt Lake City, presented design ideas to the state legislature’s prison development commission in late September. As the architecture firm continues to gather ideas from hundreds of modern correctional facilities across the country, its main goal is to create a campus that focuses on rehabilitation, normalizing day-to-day life for inmates, according to theAssociated Press.

“The new correctional facility allows Utah to expand treatment and programming opportunities for inmates,” said Utah Department of Corrections Executive Director Rollin Cook. The modern design will replace the current facility that lacks adequate, flexible space for treatment, rehabilitation, education and job-training programs that prepare inmates for a successful, safe and lasting re-entry into society.”

GSBS Architects, working with national architecture firm HOK and Miami-based CGL on project design, presented several design layouts and shapes for the 130-acre prison campus that will have the design and space necessary to promote the state’s Criminal Justice Reinvestment Initiative to help with inmate rehabilitation. The plan is to create a comfortable setting for lower-threat inmates to help prepare them for life after incarceration. That could include having dining halls for inmates in lieu of eating in their cells. Another option would be creating an appointment system for inmates to schedule haircuts instead of standing in line at a specific time, reported the Associated Press. The design would also do away with guard towers typical of prison projects of this kind, according to FOX 13, a local news outlet.

“We have an opportunity to design a facility that is focused on what's best for public safety, and incorporates the best practices in security for the facility and that's very exciting,” Cook said.

Officials announced in late September that the closing agreement to buy land several miles west of Salt Lake International Airport should be reached this fall. Designs for the exterior of the prison won’t be done until next year, with construction to follow. Construction of the 4,000-bed prison is expected to cost $550 million and is scheduled for completion by fall 2020. A joint venture between Salt Lake City-headquartered Big-D Construction Corp. and Phoenix-based Kitchell (called BDK) was chosen to serve as the project’s management and technical consultant, while a joint venture between Layton Construction Company and Okland Construction — both of which have offices in Salt Lake City — are serving as construction manager.

Lawmakers funded $80 million in cash to begin the process of moving the prison from its existing site in Draper, replacing the aging facility and making room for land that could be developed, according to FOX 13. The project could have the potential for a 1,000-bed expansion, but lawmakers acknowledge that the state could eventually need a third prison site if the inmate population continues to grow.