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Renovations under way at federal courthouse

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As attorneys and judges continue filing and litigating cases in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, a renovation project is underway and adding new life into the federal courthouse in downtown Indianapolis.

Using $69.3 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as part of a multi-billion dollar program, the 105-year-old building will be modernized for the 21st century and preserved for at least another century.
 

Rennovation main One aspect of a $69.3 million renovation project at the Birch Bayh Federal Building in Indianapolis involves renovating 13 murals inside the William E. Steckler ceremonial courtroom. The key components involve improving energy efficiency throughout the 105-year-old building. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

“This building may look like a museum, but it’s a fully operational and functional federal building and we have to keep that in mind with this project,” said project manager Matthew Chalifoux of Washington, D.C.-based Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering. “We keep in mind that there’s 100 years of life in this building already, and we’re extending that life even longer.”

The U.S. General Services Administration is overseeing the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse project, which began in January and is scheduled to continue until August 2012. About 100 workers are currently working a night shift so as not to interfere with court business, and as many as 150 total will be working once a weekend shift is added, according to the GSA. Twenty-three companies, including 19 with offices in Indiana, are involved in the project.

Four key areas of the renovation:

• Fire prevention: More than 10 miles of sprinkler lines and 3,725 new sprinkler heads are being installed in the building, aimed at increasing the amount of coverage by six times the current level of protection and making it comply with modern safety codes. The new fire safety system will include voice alert alarms, and the overall impact will be to improve safety about 74 percent.

• A green roof: A new roof with grass, plants, and trees growing on top of it is being added in order to increase energy efficiency and help keep the building cooler and more environmentally friendly. The new 30,000-square-foot rooftop will provide as much oxygen as 18 trees, double the lifespan of the roof, and help insulate the building, according to a GSA release. The roof is being installed by Indianapolis-based Blackmore & Buckner Ro

Rennovation second Renovation project manager Matthew Chalifoux, with Washington, D.C.-based Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture and Engineering describes how the roof will look once it goes green. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

ofing, and once finished it will be the largest of four green roofs within Indianapolis.

• Harvesting rainwater: Five 2,000-gallon tanks will collect water from roof drains to provide a non-potable supply for the building’s 91 toilets and 28 urinals. The tanks are in the basement, and water will be filtered before going into the plumbing system. The harvesting effort is estimated to reduce water usage by as much as 30 percent.

• Digital controls: The building’s 300 manual controls for heating and air conditioning will be converted into a single digital keyboard that will better monitor air quality, comfort, and efficiency. Crews will be able to control the system remotely by cell phone and other mobile devices.

But aside from those main focuses of the project, other renovations are also happening throughout the courthouse. Murals in the William E. Steckler ceremonial courtroom, where now-Senior Judge Larry McKinney hears cases, are being renovated through this project. Those 13 murals that represent the original U.S. colonies line the top of the courtroom’s walls, according to court historian Doria Lynch.

Project leaders say the objective of that historical preservation aspect fits into the project’s overall theme: that people will think of this as a 1905 courthouse, even though it’s a 21st century building.

So far, the legal business of the courthouse hasn’t been impacted much, even though construction materials and temporary safety walls are around the outside of the building and in various spots.

Judge William Lawrence said he expects to be losing his chambers for a period of time starting in mid-July and will eventually be relocated elsewhere in the building. Judge McKinney will likely be moved sometime after that, as will the remaining judges and magistrates – though the timing will depend on the project’s overall progress.•

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  1. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

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  4. Dear Fan, let me help you correct the title to your post. "ACLU is [Left] most of the time" will render it accurate. Just google it if you doubt that I am, err, "right" about this: "By the mid-1930s, Roger Nash Baldwin had carved out a well-established reputation as America’s foremost civil libertarian. He was, at the same time, one of the nation’s leading figures in left-of-center circles. Founder and long time director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Baldwin was a firm Popular Fronter who believed that forces on the left side of the political spectrum should unite to ward off the threat posed by right-wing aggressors and to advance progressive causes. Baldwin’s expansive civil liberties perspective, coupled with his determined belief in the need for sweeping socioeconomic change, sometimes resulted in contradictory and controversial pronouncements. That made him something of a lightning rod for those who painted the ACLU with a red brush." http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/roger-baldwin-2/ "[George Soros underwrites the ACLU' which It supports open borders, has rushed to the defense of suspected terrorists and their abettors, and appointed former New Left terrorist Bernardine Dohrn to its Advisory Board." http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=1237 "The creation of non-profit law firms ushered in an era of progressive public interest firms modeled after already established like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP") and the American Civil Liberties Union ("ACLU") to advance progressive causes from the environmental protection to consumer advocacy." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cause_lawyering

  5. Mr. Foltz: Your comment that the ACLU is "one of the most wicked and evil organizations in existence today" clearly shows you have no real understanding of what the ACLU does for Americans. The fact that the state is paying out so much in legal fees to the ACLU is clear evidence the ACLU is doing something right, defending all of us from laws that are unconstitutional. The ACLU is the single largest advocacy group for the US Constitution. Every single citizen of the United States owes some level of debt to the ACLU for defending our rights.

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