Designing a government building to house a state’s elected officials requires a delicate balance of creating something sophisticated and stately while making prudent use of taxpayer dollars. The new $90-million, four-story Minnesota Senate Building in St. Paul achieved that balance with an elegant precast concrete and glass design with a massing that gently curves to maximize views back to the neighboring capitol.
The precast concrete façade was specifically chosen to help keep costs under control while delivering a durable structure on an inflexible deadline. Even with the design-build method and accelerated schedule, construction did not start until August 2014, but the precast concrete was completed in ample time to host the 2016 legislative term.
The designers made extensive use of models and mock-ups to hone the design and ensure they made the most effective use of stone and color, as well as avoiding problems during construction.
The final iteration of the design made use of native, locally sourced stone embedded in precast concrete panels across the entire south façade, which faces the capitol. A complementary architectural precast concrete panel with light sandblast was used on the other three sides. Strong horizontal reveals in the precast concrete panels create additional shadow lines and reliefs around the building. Given the radial shape of the building, there were many L-shaped precast concrete panels, often with articulation, resulting in fairly complex forms. The mock-up allowed the design team to study the atypical panel shapes and end conditions to eliminate any potential breaking on-site.
As part of the project, extensive measures were taken to reduce long-term energy consumption. An energy model created to validate the energy measures showed the building exceeded energy consumption goals by 37%. The structure is expected to achieve B3 benchmarking standards, which is the state’s equivalent of LEED.