By Jeff Yoders, Senior Associate Editor
While BIM can unlock process efficiencies on any project, its benefits are most pronounced in large projects. The $339-million, 695,000-sf Maricopa County Court Tower in Phoenix is a perfect example.
As the need for new state, county, and municipal facilities keeps growing and funding for public building construction continues to shrink, state and local officials are left with two basic options: renovate dilapidated older buildings and hope for the best, or build new facilities on anemic budgets.
That was the thorny choice before the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors just three years ago. Maricopa is the fourth most-populous county in the U.S., encompassing Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, and much of south-central Arizona, with a population of 3.9 million (greater than that of 24 states). Most of its criminal cases are tried in the Superior Court Complex, whose newest building is more than 30 years old, but with 40,000 felony cases filed yearly and that caseload projected to grow to 56,000 a year by 2016, the county's aging justice facilities were bursting at the seams.
In the fall of 2007 the board considered two strategies: the first, to allocate $86 million for capital improvements to the existing courthouses in downtown Phoenix, plus another $67 million to expand a regional courthouse in Mesa and undertake several smaller projects; the other, to build and equip a high-rise Criminal Court Tower that would bring most of these services together in one block in downtown Phoenix.
Despite slumping county tax revenues and bleak forecasts from economists that the local economy would only get worse, the commissioners, emboldened by lower construction materials prices, saw a narrow window of opportunity for new construction and committed to a new $339 million 14-story, 32-courtroom complex.
The board's ambitious decision to go with a new high-rise complex put a heavy burden on the Building Team selected to design and construct the tower. With a construction cost of $259 million (plus another $80 million for design services, interior furnishings, project management, insurance, and other costs), the project would require the latest in courtroom and jail facilities, all planned to last a century. Furthermore, the design would have to qualify for at least LEED Silver certification, and the complex had to be open for business by January 1, 2012, to deal with the anticipated explosion in cases.
To meet the three-year fast-track schedule, Maricopa County required collaborative design and construction in all contracts with the Building Team: core and shell architect GouldEvans, interior design and program architect AECOM, structural engineer Paragon Structural Design, MEP engineer Syska Hennessy Group, and joint-venture construction manager Gilbane/Ryan.
The changes the new public complex would have on downtown Phoenix were a further consideration for the team. The courthouse had to have three separate circulation plans for judges and law enforcement officials, the public, and suspects being held in custody. The tower would need an underground tunnel to transport jailed suspects from a nearby downtown jail. At 278 feet in height, the proposed...