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Polk County Criminal Courts Building Gets New Life from an Old Source

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

By: Ashley Albaugh

In 1983 Neumann Brothers completed the Polk County Criminal Courts building, now 33-years later; the Neumann Brothers team is back on site.Work on this project began in August of this year and includes the demolition and removal of the top five floors (of the eight-story building) along with selective interior and exterior demolition of the basement, first and second floors. All of this is to be completed while leaving the concrete columns and floor slabs in place. Once demo is done five new floors will be built through and around the existing structure. When complete the new space will be home to new courtrooms, offices, holding cells, and jury chambers, with the possibility for future expansion. 

“We’re excited for the opportunity to work once again with Polk County [having completed the exterior renovation of the Polk County Courthouse in 2015] as we assist them with their need for a more updated and usable space.” said Project Manager / Shareholder Matt Davis.

The almost two year project kicked off not in the Criminal Courts building however, but in the Polk County Courthouse directly across the street. Crews had to install six temporary holding cells, for individuals awaiting trial, and temporary office space for the sheriff’s department.

Back across the street, in the basement of the old jail, the crew had to modify the piping system that heats the Courthouse as it is housed in the Criminal Courts building. Due to this unique set up, selective demolition had to occur in the basement in order to keep the boiler running (and thereby heating the Courthouse) throughout the duration of the project. 

Once the temporary space was in place at the Courthouse, demolition was able to begin in the Criminal Courts building. For the five month demolition phase of the project the team will move wing by wing starting on the eighth floor and moving their way down through the fourth floor. 

This isn’t your typical demo job. This project required extensive site preparation before the official process of demolition could even begin. Crews had to create equipment access to each floor and they have to maintain water to each floor in case of an emergency. Before starting demolition on any floor the team must also shore the five consecutive floors below to support the demo equipment they are lifting into the space by crane. 

The site’s perimeters are tight and required extensive coordination before work could get underway. Coordination with subcontractors, the City, the Courthouse, the Sheriff’s department, Wells Fargo, Dart and the Traffic division were all necessary to help get this project running smoothly and safely. Barricades, fencing and signage were installed around the site to direct pedestrian traffic away from the demolition; parking was reconsidered between the two buildings so as not to interfere with the Sheriff’s work; and every move had to be calculated in order to keep the surrounding streets open to traffic and not disrupt the surrounding businesses.

Safety is always a top priority! On a project of this magnitude, with so many constraints and moving parts, additional measures to maintain a safe environment for Des Moines’ residents, visitors and those working on the project are needed. A new safety orientation program was implemented on this project that is required for anyone working on the jobsite. Those who successfully complete the new program receive a project specific sticker that must be visible on their hardhat before stepping onto the jobsite. 

We love a good challenge here at Neumann Brothers and between the site and time constraints and the overall complexity of this project, there are no lack of challenges to be found. This project is exciting! It’s exciting for Polk County and for us  as we are back working in a building that we originally constructed. “This is a pretty prominent building in Des Moines, we’re changing the skeleton of the downtown skyline and we are moving full circle – one generation of Neumann employees to another – how could you not be excited to be a part of this project?” questioned Matt Davis.