Cordell Hull State Office Building
Best Project

Owner: Tennessee State Dept. of General Services and State of Tennessee Real Estate Asset Management (STREAM)
Lead Design Firm: Centric Architecture
General Contractor: Skanska USA
MEP Engineer: Smith Seckman Reid

Built in the 1950s, the Cordell Hull State Office Building was on the chopping block for demolition as its original form was considered potentially obsolete. The State of Tennessee Real Estate Asset Management Division of the Dept. of General Services was able to work with the design team to devise a modernization plan to restore the building’s functionality without compromising its historic integrity. 

The Skanska-managed project included 366,000 sq ft of renovation, 7,000 sq ft of new construction, five new elevators, six renovated elevators, a new pedestrian tunnel and a parking garage. To transform the Hull Building into a modern, usable space, the project team removed seven areas of structural concrete slabs totaling 9,290 sq ft and installed more than 100 tons of structural-steel columns and 40-in.-deep transfer beams. These structural modifications increased ceiling heights and allowed for the addition of the central grand stair between the ground and second floors as well as a new elevator shaft. 

The excavation for the tunnel required more than 100 underground explosive blasts into solid limestone. The team took special measures to safeguard the high-traffic downtown location as well as adjacent historically significant monuments and structures. Numerous forms of monitoring for vibrations, seismic activity and sound levels were distributed across the site, while inclinometers and strain gauges were installed in surrounding buildings, including Tennessee’s Capitol. Additional devices were installed in the Capitol to ensure its safety as excavation work drew closer.

Contractors also improved the building’s energy efficiency by installing new electrical, lighting and high-efficiency mechanical systems as well as by adding three areas of green roof. The project team increased the building’s overall footprint with larger committee rooms that feature increased natural lighting. 

With a large volume of construction activity scattered across the site, effective communication was critical. The project team adopted the Swift911 app for blast and weather alerts and fire alarm drills, providing updates and alerts to more than 300 construction workers, project owners and neighboring building contacts via texts, phone calls or emails as needed. When a tornado alert was issued for downtown Nashville, a warning relayed via Swift911 enabled the project’s field workers to quickly relocate to safety until the danger passed.