The $258-million Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center will be right at home when its 2013 completion fulfills Denver's civic center master plan. The new judicial center, which houses the state courts complex, sits across the street from the iconic Colorado State Capitol and is a neighbor to such design giants as the City and County Building, Denver Public Library and the Denver Art Museum.

The granite-clad building features a columned facade and glass-domed atrium that complement the nearby executive and legislative buildings. The 695,767-sq-ft complex includes a 12-story office building that will consolidate seven judicial and legal agencies, improve efficiency and save money on leased space.

The four-story neoclassical courthouse also will host the Colorado Supreme Court Law Library and an interactive Visitors Learning Center for the American justice system under a 4,000-sq-ft green roof.

Demolition of the former building on the site started in May 2010. Foundation work began that August, and the project is moving toward an on-time completion in spring 2013. It is aiming for LEED-Gold certification.


Virtual Efficiency

Denver's Fentress Architects and CM/GC Mortenson Construction, Denver, were hired within two weeks of each other in July 2009. Although the firms are working under separate contracts, Mortenson project executive Brett Sisco says they operate like an integrated design-build team, with a "spirit of cooperation second to none."

Brian Kannady, principal with M-E Engineers, Denver, the mechanical engineering firm that played a key role in the greening of the building, adds, "Integrated design brought together the owner, building operator, design team, construction team and the commissioning team early so timely and educated decisions could be made."

The entire structure is being coordinated and detailed using sophisticated 3D modeling from the "cloud." Every subcontractor is included—down to the roofing, flashing and caulking details—and a full structure and enclosure model drives fabrication and quality control, Sisco says. "Subs have met or beat deadlines because the process went smoothly," he adds.

Curt Fentress, design principal at Fentress Architects, says the project illustrates "the future of design and construction. The model is accessible on each floor to workers via their iPads and handheld devices, where they can see real-time drawings that may have been altered due to manufacturer or supply issues or a last-minute building-code issue."

Fentress says the design team considered 75 to 80 different concepts in the early stages of design while searching for the best solution to create a 100-year building. Granite was chosen for the exterior of the concrete-framed courts building to create a civic/judicial feel and to reflect the nearby Capitol. The granite was quarried in Minnesota and trucked to Denver from its fabrication point in South Dakota.