Minneapolis Courthouse Master Plan

How do you upgrade a historic 1902 building that covers an entire city block, has 680,000 gross square feet and must remain occupied during the upgrade? That was the question facing the Municipal Building Commission as they sought to improve temperature control and air quality, plus upgrade fire-safety systems, in the Minneapolis City Hall and Courthouse building. Their master plan included 23 stages and spanned 10 years; KFI Engineers (KFI) began work on the project for stages 8-15 and was unanimously awarded stages 16-23 when the MBC saw the effectiveness and creativity of KFI’s solutions for installing the new air handling system.

Highlights of the project include:

Saving Space

By using larger air handlers and existing attic space, KFI maximized leasable space in the building, preserved the historic fa├žade and made maintenance easier. KFI rigorously pre-planned the installation of the air handlers so they could understand within inches what would fit and then use units that were as large as possible in the non-leasable areas. In order to power the new units, KFI renovated and replaced switchgear and added distribution using the building’s vertical shafts.

Greater Energy Reduction

KFI recommended using energy recovery units that other engineers hadn’t included in their plans because they assumed the units wouldn’t fit. Using mezzanines and intensive coordination, KFI was able to install the units that will reclaim energy from the building’s exhaust air.

Minimizing Disruption

A high level of internal choreography was necessary for this extensively staged project that went floor-by-floor by building quadrant and updated the highest priority areas first. KFI worked with the contractors and MBC to ensure that they could keep the HVAC system running throughout the construction process by rerouting systems to existing air handlers while installing the new equipment. The building has been and will remain fully operational and occupied through the project’s anticipated 2014 completion date.

When the project began, the mechanical system only provided 60 percent of the fresh air the building needed. KFI is overseeing the addition of four new fresh air intake units and four air handling units per floor. In addition, they are updating fire alarms, smoke detectors, public address, sprinkler systems and electrical systems. During this coordination-intensive project, MBC has appreciated KFI’s straightforward and communicative culture. At every stage, KFI works closely with the contractors and the owners so that each installation has fewer interferences and obstacles, more efficient use of time and a great outcome. MBC knows they can contact KFI at any time if an issue arises in the building and they meet on a weekly basis to coordinate the project.