Renovations to this 107-year-old federal building and courthouse required team members to seamlessly thread new systems through a richly rendered fabric, including historic marble, plaster and mosaic ceiling tile that underwent restoration in the 1990s. New M/E/P systems and sprinklers were introduced to the 540,000-sq-ft structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo Courtesy of David Sundberg/Esto
Renovations to this 107-year-old federal building and courthouse required team members to seam- lessly thread new systems through a richly rendered fabric.

During preliminary design, the architect performed a preservation study to create a strategic "road map" for equipment placement and to identify opportunities for restoring missing historic elements. In one instance, team members replaced metal air diffusers with ornamental ones, referencing originals in adjacent spaces to guide their efforts.

Prior to construction, the project's contractor, Shiel Sexton Co., implemented plans to ensure that new system components didn't compromise historic finishes. In addition to submitting a Historic Cutting Plan to the project team, Shiel Sexton created a video outlining step-by-step instructions for performing precision cuts. It also engaged team members in a walk-through of thousands of penetration points to determine the precise location of each component.

Nevertheless, installation of new sprinkler piping proved problematic. After drilling through decorative marble, workers literally hit a wall in some locations, encountering 36 in. of load-bearing brick that defied dry-core drilling. Because protection of the interior precluded use of wet-core drilling, team members developed a hybrid solution, employing a small-bore dry pilot hole to serve as a guide and outlet for effluent from a wet core.

Renovations also introduced new emergency-preparedness systems to the structure in addition to a green roof and rainwater harvesting system.

Work was performed in phases over a 32-month period, with minimal relocation of tenants. Shiel Sexton created a round-the-clock schedule, with workers also on site on weekends. The contractor also staffed managers on site during the day to ensure that highly sensitive areas were secured.

Birch Bayh Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse Modernization and Renovation Indianapolis

Key Players

Owner U.S. General Services Administration, Chicago

GC Shiel Sexton Co., Indianapolis

Designer EYP Architecture & Engineering, Washington, D.C.