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New Courthouse Soars Over Buffalo

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Best Government/Public Building

Photo by David B. Seide
Photo by David B. Seide
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With soaring, curved glass walls, this federal courthouse building at Niagara Square, a high-profile site in downtown Buffalo, N.Y., took four years to build. The 10-story, 265,000-sq-ft structure contains 10 courtrooms, several chambers and a 54-car underground parking garage. It will be home to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the U.S. Trustees, the Federal Defender and the U.S. Tax Court.

Under the General Services Administration's Art in Architecture Program, colored glass panels by Robert Mangold, who grew up nearby, brighten the entry pavilion. The glass facade of the pavilion includes all 4,536 words of the U.S. Constitution.

Prior to construction, a demolition phase included the abatement and the tearing down of five buildings on the site. The project team used Web-based construction management software for tracking such information as submittals, RFIs, change orders, noncompliance notices, daily reports and meeting minutes. The team also used computer tablets to track and manage work.

Tough winters in this city on the shores of Lake Erie meant workers had to rush to complete the outer structure before December rolled around. The curtain wall also had to be blast-resistant to meet federal standards.

But "the facility was designed to be a 100-year building and, to reach that milestone, the quality had to be the priority," says construction manager Cannon Construction Services.

Ensuring safety was another priority. General contractor Mascaro Construction Co. entered into a partnership with the state Dept. of Labor for the duration of the project to promote innovation in safety and health management.

Setting out to achieve LEED-Silver status, the project beat that goal. The LEED-Gold building uses 30% less water and 50% less energy than code-compliant structures.

More than 85% of building materials were manufactured within 500 miles of the site. Recycled and low-volatile organic compound materials were also used to ensure excellent air quality, GSA says.

General Services Administration, Buffalo U.S. Federal Courthouse, Buffalo, N.Y.

Key Players

Owner/Developer: General Services Administration

Construction Manager: Cannon Construction Services

General Contractor: Mascaro Construction Co.

Lead Designer: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

Civil Engineer: Watts Engineering

Structural/Blast Engineer: Weidlinger Associates

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