New Montana Federal Courthouse Sets Benchmark for Design and Construction Delivery
September 14, 2012
Seattle, WA – The new federal courthouse in Billings, Montana is open for business after only 27 months of design and construction. According to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which manages real estate and property for the federal government, the design-build project team of Mortenson Construction and NBBJ established a new benchmark for the fastest delivery of a modern federal courthouse. The formal building opening and dedication is scheduled for September 18.
“The successful design and construction process of the Billings courthouse underscores the value and efficiency of our lean design-build process,” said Jim Yowan, Vice President, Mortenson Construction. “As a leader in the construction of federal facilities, we are proud to have been a part of delivering such an iconic project for the Billings community in record time.”
The expedited design and construction was achieved through a variety of practices and technologies geared toward construction efficiency, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM). Through the use of BIM, the design and construction team were able to maximize user understanding of the design, safety and quality, while saving time and money. “We avoided $33,500 worth of re-work by using BIM for the coordination of the building enclosure alone,” said Yowan.
Construction of the courthouse began in October 2010, and includes three courtrooms, four judge’s chambers, prisoner areas, and office and public spaces. Funded with $79 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, the as-yet unnamed courthouse encompasses 128,742 square feet on a 1.8-acre site near the center of the city of Billings. In addition to the courts, the new building houses the Clerk of Court, U.S. Probation Office, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and General Services Administration.
The project directed more than 50-percent of the subcontracted dollars to small businesses and more than 76-percent of the work was awarded to Montana businesses — equaling $40.2 million.
Four key concepts informed the design: federal expression, regionalism, visible justice, and high performance. The courtrooms have been placed at the top of the building, representing the idea of "visible justice,” and the civic significance of the judicial process.
Natural elements are reflected throughout the space, with large windows on the west side providing ample natural light and expansive views of downtown Billings. The building features rugged precast panels to reflect the landscape around Billings while supporting the two courtroom floors. The fourth floor extends out onto a large rooftop patio, which is landscaped with shrubs and trees. As a tribute to the Blackfeet Nation, American Indian themes are introduced throughout, including a tepee motif and a tepee village scene.
The building is designed to be at least 30-percent more energy efficient than the industry standard, and has already achieved an energy cost savings of more than 40-percent. High performance strategies were incorporated throughout, including radiant heating and cooling, a super-insulated exterior wall system with triple glazing and shading on the west façade lobbies, and a closed cooling tower. The courthouse is on track to achieve LEED-Silver certification.