New Forensic Facility is Ground Zero for Crime Fighting Work in San Diego County

Project Overview

An integrated design-build team from DPR and SmithGroup put their collective planning and problem-solving skills to good use to create a new state-of-the-art forensic facility for the County of San Diego. Combining three key policing entities under one roof – the regional crime lab, major crimes division and property and evidence unit – the 158,000 sq. ft., four-story San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab facility serves as ground zero for crime fighting efforts in the region.

The new ground-up facility, completed by DPR in May of 2018 after 21 months of construction, consists of 60,000 sq. ft. of ballistics lab and storage at basement level, 44,0000 sq. ft. of laboratory space, 54,000 sq. ft. of Sheriff’s Central Investigations Division and crime lab administrative office space and a central plant expansion. One of the first facilities in the country to consolidate evidence holding, analysis and holding cells in a single space, the crime lab provides specialized analysis in controlled substances and alcohol, DNA and trace evidence, latent fingerprint development and comparison, cold case forensic team work and more.

The award-winning LEED Gold facility encompasses numerous green features. In addition to a photovoltaic array that supplies one-fifth of the building’s energy, it includes extensive daylighting, low-flow indoor plumbing, native plants and high-efficiency irrigation.

DPR self-performed metal studs framing, drywall, acoustic ceilings and the basement concrete pour. To safeguard the property and evidence unit in the basement against moisture intrusion, SPW concrete crews waterproofed the double height basement walls and installed a permanent dewatering system, all during record rainfall.

The Challenges

Because of the delicate materials to be stored underground in the 25-ft. floor-to-floor basement – an inherently damp location – delivering a stable, fully waterproofed environment was a critical challenge. DPR crews were challenged with implementing special waterproofing measures and constructing a permanent dewatering system, work that took place during a record rainy season.

DPR SPW drywall crews also faced challenges from an array of specialized requirements for the onsite ballistics lab, including adding specialty ballistics rubber and a Kevlar bulletproofing layers into the drywall. The lab, which featured a bullet recovery tank, an armory and a library of ammunition, was designed and constructed to have a clear and secure connection to the warehouse.

The Solutions

Ensuring the basement would remain fully waterproof and climate controlled was a critical goal. DPR SPW concrete crews created a one-sided framework that supported the basement walls without penetrating the outer side, pouring concrete through the wall and framework to avoid water seeping into the basement. All concrete work was successfully completed on time and, most importantly, without puncturing the waterproofing membrane.

In order to deliver the specialized drywall work, DPR implemented strict, on-site quality control measures. This ensured the bullet proof layers were cut and installed properly and other unique details in the walls and ceilings were executed to the highest quality. DPR’s self-perform drywall team installed the bullet-proof drywall and set the pace for this critical path scope of work so there were no delays or re-work required.

The Result

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab project serves as a model for how to effectively design and construct a cutting-edge facility that incorporates critical crime fighting services and units under one roof. The project was recognized in ENR California’s 2019 Best Projects Awards with an Award of Merit in the “Green Project” category. Building Design & Construction awarded the project a “Silver” award in its 2019 Build Team Awards competition, which celebrates excellence in design and construction solutions as well as collaboration of the AEC and owner teams.


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