Small, high-security workspace

Working on such a small footprint at a high-security prison deepens the challenges for the contractor. With little space for material, machine or equipment storage, precise timing and scheduling are essential for running the job. Montalbano says site logistics have to be meticulously timed and coordinated with the use of the one 500-ton tower crane on site.

"You walk out and we're surrounded by the existing facility, the interstate and property boundaries. It was a big challenge to get some things in here," he says.

Montalbano says they were given the jobsite "in pieces" as the sheriff could make it available. In some stages of the project, the team works within 10 ft of high-security inmates and fences. Risks are increased because a small bottleneck could hold up the entire job.

During the peak of wing construction, the contractor would stack one wing every two days, de-rig the crane and move it onto another wing, then come back in and set the precast planks to pour the next level. Gary McCann, McDonnel project superintendent, says with only one crane on the site, the crew had to use it to its fullest extent while in each location. This called for lots of overtime and long days during some pours.

Realizing that logistics could present a problem, Montalbano says they planned for potential delays. The team created a work schedule that ensured a consistent flow and held subcontractors accountable to keep the project moving. There is constant pressure to make sure materials are on site on time and deadlines are met.

"When we said we are pouring a floor and have a next shipment of cells here on a certain date, we are holding everyone accountable to make those days. We set that tone coming out of the chute," he says.

Advanced design

McDonnel Group broke ground in September 2011. The facility is being constructed to meet the standards and codes of the American Correctional Association. Jeffrey Proctor, McDonnel assistant project manager, says the Orleans Parish Prison employs a new type of design called "direct supervision," which allows guards to walk around and individually supervise each cell.

The project incorporates some of the most advanced prison technologies on the market. Hundreds of security cameras will be synced to touch-screen monitors in control rooms. Proctor says there is a lot of complex work involved in wiring security and cell door systems.