VIEWPOINT: Build the justice center right the first time

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viewpoint tag no photoThere hasn’t been enough transparency in the planning and design stages of the criminal justice complex, and the city and taxpayers risk getting a building that is expensive and problematic to operate in the long term.

Only 30 percent of the selection criteria for the winning bid related to design and systems. The players making the major decisions—accountants, lawyers and security personnel—seem mostly worried about finances. Local architects and construction personnel who could warn them away from problems with materials and structural design have largely been locked out.

A sustainable building must be resilient. It should be designed for its original use and allow for repurposing so it will have a long service life with low maintenance costs. A sustainable building also should be designed to incur minimal damage from natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes, flooding and fire, and to be energy-efficient.

Examples of costly decisions during design and construction abound:

• Simon Property Group Inc.’s headquarters isn’t even 8 years old and workers are already repairing composite metal panels on the outer shell because they have started to split due to excessive moisture.

• The Carmel Palladium concert hall settled a $5.3 million lawsuit over defects in the structural steel column web supporting the Palladium’s domed roof, halting the project for three months in 2009.

• The Central Library renovation and addition was pushed back two years in 2006 after the discovery of a reinforcement bar’s not being encased in concrete columns and beams of the underground parking garage. The library system collected more than $20 million as part of its legal quest to recoup cost overruns.

• Lucas Oil Stadium has had three unexpected major repairs in its six years, including replacement of pipe insulation that deteriorated; roof drains that broke during a storm; and replacement of corroded pipes that supplied water to rest rooms, sinks and water fountains. The problems will cost the Capital Improvement Board roughly $15 million.

• Cummins Inc. expects to break ground in April for its 10-story office tower in downtown Indianapolis. The design of the glass-enclosed building will include flexible office space with abundant views and lots of natural light. The question that should be asked is, “How much energy will the tower consume?”

Taxpayers expect elected officials to ensure the city’s long-term interests prevail over the shorter-term and profit motives of the private company that won the bid to construct the justice complex. Taxpayers must encourage the City-County Council to insist on greater transparency and ensure that the long-term interests of taxpayers are protected.•


Eston Hathaway, president, Midwest Masonry Council; Ted Champ, president, Indiana Kentucky Structural Masonry Coalition; Paul Nysewander, executive director, Indiana Mason Contractors Association; Terri Truitt, executive director, Midwest Masonry Council; Dave Collins, director, International Masonry Institute. Send comments on this column to

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