Wake County Justice Center: Justice for Generations
Walt Disney once said, “If you dream it, you can do it.” The Wake County Justice Center began with just that – a dream. County and court officials began to envision a facility in the late 1990s that would meet judicial and public records needs while serving as a beacon of justice and stewardship. In 2006, marking the culmination of much thoughtful planning and confident expectation, Wake County selected Balfour Beatty – through a joint venture – as the construction manager at-risk to build their new criminal courthouse.
The joint venture team began site work on this ambitious project with the demolition of two aged, degenerating buildings and a parking deck in downtown Raleigh. It took just over three years to complete the $150 million, 11-story building, but the end result was well worth the wait. Encompassing 576,996 square feet, the Wake County Justice Center is a state-of-the-art and sustainable that will allow a growing population to participate in the judicial system and local government activities for decades to come.
The team turned over the substantial portion of the Justice Center to Wake County in May 2013 – six months ahead of the original estimated completion date. They did this by minimizing re-work, which was accomplished through the development of a thorough site logistics plan as well as the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM).
The logistics plan revealed that the site could sustain three tower cranes for the first half of the job, which expedited getting the concrete structure out of the ground. There was a need for shoring due to the proximity of existing downtown roads and the logistics of constructing a new building within two feet of the existing Public Safety Center. The team also created 3D models of all MEP systems prior to fabrication as well as the underground tunnel, courtrooms, and the vast amount of technologically advanced security systems such as the camera angles and rotations. BIM facilitated early collaboration between the CM at-Risk, owner, and end-user groups on this highly complex project. The constructability efforts allowed the team to move the generators from the basement of the Justice Center with remote cooling to a tradition generator arrangement on the roof of the adjacent building’s parking deck. This allowed the project to save considerable cost and space in the building.
The team also created detailed mock-ups of all critical finishes including precast/curtain wall mockup as well as a full scale courtroom and boardroom daiz mockup, further eliminating the need for costly re-work as well as enhancing the quality control process. These mock-ups served as a testing lab for the project, enabling the owner and architect to make design decisions and determine the viability of different approaches, materials, and finishes before implementing them on-site.
The Wake County Justice Center was also completed nearly $30 million under budget. The substantial savings was due in large part to Balfour Beatty’s value engineering efforts. The team worked with Wake County early on and lowered the building height by changing the floor-to-floor heights, thereby achieving substantial building façade cost savings of nearly $17 million. Utilizing BIM also allowed our team to install the MEP systems in a timely fashion while saving on construction costs. Other substantial VE items included the reduction of A/V scope ($2M savings) and the utilization of CMU backup for stone veneer in lieu of precast ($1M savings).
Another primary reason the Justice Center finished under budget was due to the timing of subcontractor bidding, which occurred in a tough economic downturn. Our team worked closely with the County and architect to keep the design on schedule so as to bid the job at the most fortuitous time.
The Wake County Justice Center is more than a landmark building; it’s a landmark experience for the citizens of Wake County. The team constructed a truly sublime facility, one that is awe-inspiring in its both its elegant exterior and graceful interior with regal courtrooms, an august atrium, and resplendent finishes such as warm wood paneling and intricate stone inlays. Every aspect of the expensive project scope – from the building’s underground tunnels to its central energy plant, parking deck, and advanced security systems – was completed with world-class precision. The project was recognized for excellence with an Eagle Award, one of the highest honors bestowed on a project by the Carolinas chapter of the Associated Builders & Contractors.
An icon within the Raleigh skyline, the Justice Center is a sustainable, state-of-the-art, and secure courthouse that embodies the very essence of democracy: equality, dignity, and transparency. Physically, functionally, and symbolically, the Wake County Justice Center has become a centerpiece of the community it serves, where guardians of the law preside and citizens participate in their government. Balfour Beatty was proud to have served as a joint venture partner on this monumental project that is part of the rich, living history of North Carolina’s capital county and the unfolding story of our great republic conceived in and dedicated to the enduring principles of liberty and justice.