Case Studies

SteelCell of North America Inc.: Revolutionizing Modular Construction

  • Written by: SteelCell of North America Inc.: Revolutionizing Modular Construction
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SteelCell of North America Inc. (SteelCell) has managed to help revolutionize the way detention centers are built in just over a decade. Georgia-based SteelCell designs and manufactures totally customized, prefabricated modular jail cells using durable corrosion-resistant galvannealed steel. Not only are SteelCell products lightweight and easy to ship, but the units are also designed to fit the specific security and local building code requirements of the facility in question. Best of all, the SteelCell team guarantees total customer satisfaction in addition to efficient, cost-effective construction since the products can be installed in both new and pre-existing structures.

“We look at every project as an opportunity to really maximize the owner’s capital investment,” expands Mike Smith, president and CEO of SteelCell. “Our product features are very driven by the users and their feedback, but we’re also looking to make our units more energy efficient, longer lasting and lower maintenance.”

SteelCell operates from headquarters and 115,000-square foot manufacturing facilities in Baldwin, Ga., where a team of anywhere from 45 to 65 employees design, engineer and fabricate modular cells to the client’s exacting specifications. SteelCell designed the facility to produce a maximum of 25 units daily at full capacity, though current production volume hovers closer to a range of 12- to 14-units manufactured daily.

Total Security and Durability

SteelCell manufactures more than just the cells, though, as the company recognized the need early on to apply the modularization process to other components of a detention facility. SteelCell’s cells are available in both rear and front mechanical chase configurations, and with the option of incorporating an integral shower stall. The cells can be designed in configurations of four, eight or more beds and come complete with anticontraband design furniture. The company also supplies and manufactures a product designed for medical isolation and a modular communal shower, among the many types of detention units the team has provided for detention projects.

“We’re applying a modular approach, but we take it to a much further level since all of our units remain completely custom-built,” adds Smith. This flexibility allows SteelCell to supply product just as easily for a local detention facility in the Caribbean or as to a large, maximum-security detention center for the federal government.

Galvannealed steel and a coating of polyurea – the same chemical used for tank liners and truck bed liner – serve as the common denominators amongst all SteelCell products. Using galvanized steel ensures security, durability and a lighter weight, which enables the company to ship units virtually anywhere in the world.

SteelCell units weigh roughly 5,000 pounds a piece, which is considerably lighter than the roughly 30,000-pound weight of a concrete unit of comparable size. Lighter weight allows crews to install the units atop a simple monolithic slab with no need for a fully formed foundation. Units are rolled or lifted into place with the help of some commonly available small equipment, making it easier to install units in pre-existing structures.

This allows SteelCell to help the client maximize the available square footage within a facility and the polyurea coating provides an extra layer of durability that SteelCell guarantees with up to a 10-year warranty, adapting to the client’s needs. As an added bonus, the units can also help contribute points to the LEED rating system should a project pursue certification. SteelCell uses almost 100-percent post-consumer recycled steel in its units, as well as low-VOC finishes and insulation materials made with slag aggregates, a byproduct of steel manufacturing. The units also arrive on site ready for installation without any packaging materials to generate extra landfill waste.

Steel for Today and Tomorrow

As a result, SteelCell positioned its products to be the ideal solution for projects pursuing LEED certification and was chosen to supply product for the Douglas County Adult Detention and Law Enforcement Center. The 1,500-bed facility resides just outside the Atlanta metro area and was designed by the Atlanta branch of HOK Architects as a fully contained unit with all maximum-security features situated inside the structure.

HOK Architects also designed the facility to pursue LEED Silver certification under the new construction ratings program. The design aims to supply as much indoor lighting to the cells through daylight filtered through glazed windows in common areas, eliminating the need for slit windows entirely. All in all, the building’s sustainable features will reduce the buildings energy costs by an estimated $200,000 annually. Even though the facility is four to five times as large as the previous facility, the county will be able to operate the center with the same amount of staff, according to the county sheriff’s office.

“The project required an extensive amount of BIM utilization, which helped the project complete both under budget and ahead of schedule,” states Smith. “It’s just a great example of what can be done today in correction center construction.” The facility opened for occupancy in fall 2012 and when it achieves LEED certification, the facility will become the first LEED-certified county corrections center in the Southeast.

The next few years hold a lot of growth potential for SteelCell as the company dips a toe into international waters with a few projects in the Caribbean. Technically, Smith attests that the company has only focused on projects for U.S. territories offshore to date, but these projects present a learning opportunity for the SteelCell team that will enhance other international opportunities further down the road. In doing so, the team makes a strong case for modular steel products in any industry and solidifies SteelCell of North America Inc.’s place as an innovator in prefabricated modular construction.

Published on: March 13, 2013

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