On August 5, 2008, Johnson County, Kansas voters passed the renewal and continuance of a quarter-cent sales tax, part of which was allocated to fund public safety. The passing of this ballot initiative ensured the birth of what had been a sorely needed wish-list item for area law enforcement: a new criminalistics laboratory.
Work on the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Criminalistics Laboratory (JCCL) began in fall 2010. Approximately a year and a half later, doors opened to the 62,500 square foot facility that is impressive in both aesthetics and efficiency.
LEED® Certified™ Platinum
Visitors and forensic scientists alike enjoy the modern architectural elements included in the design, but there is more to this building than clean lines. JCCL has been LEED certified to the Platinum level, the top tier of the United States Green Building Council’s rating system for sustainability and energy efficiency. Many of the laboratory products contributing to this accreditation – including multiple pieces of ventilation equipment as well as glassware washers – were purchased from nearby Labconco® Corporation. (A full list of Labconco products included in this project and information on accompanying LEED credits can be found at the end of this article.)
Ryan Rezzelle, Crime Scene Supervisor at JCCL, said the building is comprised of twelve laboratories with specialties such as DNA, trace evidence, toxicology, drug chemistry and more. There are also multiple areas and pieces of equipment that are shared among the units.
“When we had the opportunity to create spaces so equipment could be shared, we did it,” Rezzelle said. “We used the spaces and equipment to the best of our ability.”
Rezzelle said JCCL, with its LEED Certified Platinum status and increased processing capabilities, benefits the community.
“Having a lab of this magnitude means there are scientists who are better able to keep Johnson County safe,” Rezzelle said. “We spare no effort; if there is something that can be done, we absolutely can do it here.”
Gary Howell, Laboratory Director, said the achievement of the LEED Certified Platinum rating was a goal from the beginning.
“There were several main goals that the design team agreed on when designing and constructing the new Johnson County Sheriff's Office Criminalistics Laboratory to make it a high performance laboratory,” he said. “One of the goals was to build a sustainable 'green' building. This was accomplished and the lab was recognized with the awarding of the highest level of sustainability: a LEED Platinum rating. The lab attained the maximum points available for energy conservation. The HVAC system accounted for 35% of the construction costs of the new lab, with a lot of emphasis on getting it right. A lot of time and planning went into selecting systems that were scientifically advanced and energy efficient.”
Bill Willis, a technician at JCCL, has been in the forensic science industry since 1969. He says he still remembers when blood typing was the only option for forensic identification at crime scenes. Now, he is grateful for all of the technology available as he lifts fingerprints from evidence.
“We use CA (superglue) fuming for non-porous items and ninhydrin for the porous ones,” he says.
The fingerprints Willis and his colleagues gather are entered into a database that checks for matches. He is also able to collect palm prints. Willis says he appreciates the new crime lab for a lot of reasons, but mainly for all the room it gives him to work.
“This is a great space for growth,” he says.
Jess VanAckeren, Crime Scene Investigator for Johnson County Sheriffs Office, agrees that the new criminalistics laboratory offers a functional and comfortable environment for her work.
“I like the new building because it is sustainable and nice,” she says. “We can do a lot here.”
One of VanAckeren’s favorite features of JCCL is a room dedicated to the photography of evidence. There is also plenty of space for specialized functions of the lab including a mock crime scene room and an isolation room that has additional ventilation for the examination of unpleasant smelling evidence.
An environmentally-friendly building with the latest technology coupled with the work performed by people like Bill Willis and Jess VanAckeren make JCCL the resource it is for area law enforcement.
“Everyone who works in this building is here to do good,” Ryan Rezzelle said.
Labconco Products in JCCL
*Product contributes to LEED Certified Platinum status.