The $17 million expansion of the La Plata County Jail was completed last month for $1.3 million under budget thanks in part to what county officials call "value engineering."
In simple terms, value engineering is the teaming up of architects and contractors early in the design process to identify ways to trim costs while maintaining the functionality, lifespan and effectiveness of the building, said Joanne Spina, assistant county manager.
One example of value engineering might look like this: A floor could be finished with 12-inch square tiles that cost $1 apiece or 16-inch tiles that cost $1.09 apiece.
"You can cover more ground with fewer numbers of stone, but it's going to cost less money, and you have the same quality and durability," Spina said.
Techniques such as these were done whenever possible at the jail, Spina said. One real-life example done at the jail involved switching from concrete overhangs to drywall overhangs.
The county estimates it saved about $600,000 by employing the value engineering techniques, Spina said.
The county saved another $300,000 in site-development costs, she said. The county anticipated having to make certain improvements to the property that weren't necessary. What's more, the county budgeted to pay city of Durango building fees as if the expansion were a commercial development. But the county and city worked together to structure fees that more accurately reflected the true use of the building, which is to house inmates, not make money, Spina said.
Finally, the county saved about $271,000 in electronics costs and retrofitting existing electronics. Sierra Electronics, which installed the new electronics, was able to complete the job for less than expected, Spina said.
About $2.4 million of the jail expansion was paid for with a state energy-impact grant.
So, in all, county taxpayers really paid only $13.3 for the jail expansion.
The 40,100-square-foot expansion added 84 cells and 118 beds to the jail, for a total of 312 beds.
The contractor was FCI Constructors Inc., and the architect was Reilly Johnson Architecture.
"We try to be really responsible with the funds that are entrusted," Spina said.