Lancaster County (SC) Celebrates Grand Opening of New Courthouse
July 1, 2011

Lancaster County (South Carolina) celebrated the grand opening of its new Courthouse in downtown Lancaster on June 26, 2011. A formal dedication ceremony was held a month earlier on Thursday May 12. The Building Group provided construction management services for the 100,000-square-foot facility located about 40 miles south of the Building Group’s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. The new Courthouse replaces the original historic Lancaster County Courthouse, completed in 1828, which sustained heavy damage after an arsonist set it on fire in August 2008. It was quickly determined that the continued use of the historic building as a functioning court was not an option. Construction of the new Courthouse began in September 2009 and was completed on April 19, 2011. The Building Group’s contract value was $25 million.

The new three-and-a-half-story judicial facility houses four courtrooms for family, probate and criminal court, along with associated jury deliberation rooms and Judge’s chambers. Also housed in the facility are the Clerk of Court’s office, the Department of Probation and Parole, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Sixth Circuit Solicitor’s office, and the Public Defender’s office. Key features are security, functionality and audio-visual capabilities. The basement contains a secure vehicle sally port, secure holding cells, and the main security room. Public areas are clearly separated from restricted areas to maintain the security and safety of each group using the building. Courtrooms are the only space that various groups — the public, judges, juries and defendants — can occupy at the same time.

The keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony, South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal, spoke of the importance of Courthouses as being an enduring symbol for the rule of law. Guest speakers included Sixth Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith, County Clerk of Court Jeff Hammond, Sheriff Barry Faile, County Council Members Rudy Carter and Kathy Sistare (Chair), and members of the design and construction team.

Danny Mullis, project executive, spoke on behalf of the Building Group. In his remarks, Mullis praised the efforts and commitment of the Building Group project team of Jeff Miller, Randolph Scott, Joel Palmer and Heath Brafford, and our subcontractors. Mullis noted that “the project logged more than 250,000 man-hours with no lost-time accidents”. Other Building Group commitments were also achieved — there were no change orders and the project was delivered on time.

Stevens & Wilkinson, a South Carolina architectural firm, designed the facility which is registered for LEED certification. Ashby Gressette, Director of Architecture, commended the Building Group, saying, “Working with the Building Group on this project has been the BEST in my 35 years of practice! There was a real sense of teamwork.” Perception Builders, a local general contractor that provided program management services to the County, supported the remarks made by Stevens & Wilkinson’s Gressette.

Giving back to the community was a priority for the construction team from the project’s start. Throughout construction, the Building Group staff and subcontractors donated time and money to help support numerous local causes. In December 2010, for Christmas, the Building Group project team adopted the Cherry Family, a Lancaster family who provides a safe haven for children that might otherwise be homeless. Through donations from the Building Group and our subcontractors, the local family with a huge heart now has additional resources available to help children in need.

Lancaster County began moving into the facility over the Memorial Day weekend in late May and began holding court on June 7, 2011. The facility will be operated by Jeff Hammond, Lancaster County Clerk of Court, and the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department will be responsible for the security of the facility.

Preserving History
For the grand opening, Lancaster County prepared a time capsule — a common tradition for public buildings of significance. Pleased to participate, the Building Group provided a written narrative recapping the project from a construction perspective, detailing construction challenges and important milestones. Included was information about the unique features of the building, state-of-the-art technologies that were employed, and a list of subcontractors and their associated contract amounts. When the capsule is opened years from now, the future inhabitants of Lancaster County will be able to look back on the construction of the Courthouse and gain insight on how things were done at the time.