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Iowa State Penitentiary

Located in Fort Madison, IA

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The State of Iowa wanted to replace its 19th-century penitentiary with an operationally efficient, long-lasting facility that could house a larger number of inmates while reflecting a shift from simply incarcerating offenders to a culture of humane mental and physical treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Just before design began, the state also mandated that its buildings reduce energy consumption by 30% over comparable industry standards.

The new Iowa State Penitentiary represents the future of correctional facility design. Shive-Hattery took the most efficient, effective processes and systems into consideration when it came to operational efficiency, sustainability and security.

To help properly locate towers and surveillance cameras on the site, a computer analysis was performed and updated throughout the design process to measure visibility of a surface from a series of vantage points. The site circulation design achieves efficiency and coverage for staff, utility and emergency vehicles while still addressing security concerns.


The housing units form the heart of the Iowa State Penitentiary campus, designed as an array of four pods organized around a central management unit for a distinct appearance. Because of their relative size and prominent location, their visual impact is immense.

The building’s geothermal heating and cooling system offers a clean, reliable and renewable source of energy by transferring heat to and from the ground.

With a campus layout, the site design provides for long, unobstructed views and an abundance of green space with natural plant material and healing gardens. Daylighting incorporated into the building design provides a visually pleasing, productive environment for occupants while reducing lighting energy costs.

The Iowa State Penitentiary design also integrated lightweight exterior building materials and sloping metal roofs. These design considerations were made to reduce the scale of the buildings to that of an agricultural campus.


This new prison houses 350 more inmates than the previous facility, with 800 beds, while still reducing energy costs by 50% as compared to the original building.

Moving from an 1839 facility to a high-tech corrections complex allowed for improved security measures that coexist peacefully with the facility’s sustainable design. The new Iowa State Penitentiary aligns with the state’s desire for a rehabilitative environment by giving offenders a degree of ownership and sense of place – a unique feature in a maximum security facility. The project was granted approximately $1.2 million in incentives, and expects to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

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