An exterior shell of Indiana limestone has rejuvenized the image of the New Courts Facility in Jackson, MS, which was designed to house the State Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Clerk of the Court, State Law Library, Board of Bar Admissions and Administrative Offices of the Courts. The limestone was chosen for its practical qualities as well as aesthetically fitting into the building's traditional neoclassical architecture. The project was an architectural joint venture between Eley/Associates Architects, Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons, Ltd. and Dale and Associates Architects, P.A.

“The project was basically to provide new consolidated facilities for the various judicial functions in a building that expresses the dignity and importance of the third branch of our state's government,” explained David Morris, AIA, with Eley Associates Architects and part of the joint venture team of ECD Architects/Engineers. “After multiple presentations of contemporary designs on several sites, it became apparent that a fully traditional neoclassical design was desired by the client on a very challenging site directly behind the current judicial building.”

Indiana Select Gray limestone from Indiana Limestone Co.'s Crown quarry in Bloomington, IN, was favored for its durability and feelings of permanence as well as its similarity to adjacent stone buildings, including the new State Capitol, according to the design team. “For a time, granite was considered for the cladding of the classical base housing the first floor, but rusticated joints in Indiana Select Gray smooth finish limestone was finally proposed,” said Morris. “After the design and material samples were presented, our client eagerly approved our recommendations.”

The design team traveled to the Indiana quarry and plant to observe production methods, to verify that sufficient quantities were available of color and to grade material selected to complete the job. They also certified interim payments of stored materials, according to Jeff Barnes, AIA, with Dale and Associates Architects, P.A., who also worked on the joint venture team of ECD Architects/Engineers. “The limestone was used for all exterior cavity wall cladding including sills, cornices, gutters, columns, entablatures, pediments and also paving,” he said.

In total, more than 52,000 cubic feet of limestone was utilized for the construction of the exterior shell of the New Courts Facility, according to Rick Johnson of the Indiana Limestone Co. This included 10,121 pieces and 136 truckloads. “Fabrication started in November 2001, with the bulk of the finished cube completed by May of 2002,” said Johnson. “The fabrication for the longer lead limestone pieces that were erected on the building continued through November 2003 to meet scheduled shipments. Shipments of the finished limestone started in March 2003, with the final loads for the building shell shipped on November 30, 2003.”

To achieve the traditional neoclassical design for the building, which comprises 175,000 gross square feet, veneer pieces averaging 24 x 56 x 4 inches were used in conjunction with carved stone blocks for cornices and columns. The project features 18 columns that are 32 feet tall and have a diameter of 41 inches with ornate hand-carved ionic capitals topping each column.


With a structure of this size and such a large quantity of stone, it is not surprising that those involved would be presented with some challenges. “In design, the biggest challenge was to develop traditionally neoclassical proportions and details on this scale in contemporary cavity wall construction - within 12 feet of an occupied building,” said Morris. “Technically, the challenge was shedding water and flashing these details in such a porous cladding material. In construction, the challenges were during installation of the fabricated stone. Very precise concrete forming and steel erection by the general contractor avoided major fitting problems, but chipping of edges during stone setting has been our biggest aesthetic problem.”

According to the architect, proper installation of the waterproofing and flashing was a major concern. “The flashing was a flexible membrane sealed and fastened to blast-resistant reinforced CMU back-up with stainless steel termination bars,” he said. “It was fascinating to see how the stones were anchored and set in the field.”

The Select Gray limestone was not sealed, according to Barnes. “Because of its durability and low maintenance, limestone was the leading choice of materials for the design,” said the architect. “Since we have such little atmospheric pollution here compared to other parts of the country, our only staining concern was to divert run-off from the sloped copper roof away from the limestone toward internal gutters. Typical mildew growth can be easily cleaned with low pressure washing.”

It took approximately 8 1⁄2 months to complete the installation of the limestone, with approximately 26 workers on the jobsite, said Project Superintendent Andy Scoggins of Roy Anderson Corp., the general contractor for the project. Agreeing with the architects, Scoggins explained that installing the flashing and waterproofing was difficult because of the radius concrete work. “Working with a concrete structure is more difficult than a steel structure because the abundance of rebar in the columns and slabs - that is required for blast protection - made it very difficult to place embedded items needed for anchorage of the limestone,” said Scoggins.

Another difficult aspect of the installation was installing the large limestone columns, according to the project superintendent. “We had to very carefully stand up the column barrels under the concrete slab,” he said, explaining that this process was done with cranes and hoisting equipment. “It was very complex.”

The project required 30 shop drawings to detail the limestone. “The architectural and structural drawings were as close to perfect as any I've ever worked with,” said Scoggins. “[The engineers] were very professional. They were always willing to stop what they were doing and help me.” Scoggins also credited the architects for establishing a good relationship with all those involved.

This project is only the shell phase, including all structural and enclosure components with minimal core utilities. Future construction will include tenant work for the interiors, furniture, extensive site work, renovation with partial demolition of the current judicial building and erection of the front portico. At the start of construction, the garage under the current judicial building directly adjacent to the construction site was enclosed to relocate part of the State Law Library, explained the architects, adding that the Court has continued to occupy and operate on site during the entire project with minimum disruption.

“The project has received an overwhelmingly positive response thanks to the dedication and hard work of the general contractor, Roy Anderson Corp., especially the Superintendent Andy Scoggins; the subcontractors, especially Thomas R. Floyd Masonry Contractor & Lucia Group; and the suppliers, especially Indiana Limestone Co.,” said Barnes. “The general public is very pleased with the building and is anxious to see the project interior finished and the development of the mall area.”

End box

New Courts Facility
Jackson, MS

Architect: ECD Architects/Engineers, a Joint Venture of Eley/Associates Architects, Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons, Ltd. and Dale and Associates Architects, P.A.
General Contractor: Roy Anderson Corp.
Stone Supplier: Indiana Limestone Co., Bedford, IN
Stonemason: Thomas R. Floyd Masonry; Lucia Group
Engineers: Spencer Engineering (structural); Haw Engineering (anchoring system)