Kath Williams + Associates Projects

Montana State Fund Office Building

Helena, Montana
LEED Gold - 2011
LEED NC v2.2
Developer:Montana State Fund
Helena, Montana
Builder:Dick Anderson Construction
Helena, Montana
Architect:Mosaic Architects
Helena, Montana
HVAC Engineer:CTA Architects & Engineers
LEED AP:Jeff Downhour
Senior LEED AP:Kath Williams

Project narrative provided by Mosaic Architecture

The Montana State Fund (MSF) project is a new office building driven by business needs of MSF and made possible by a partnership between the City of Helena and the MSF workers’ compensation insurance company. MSF needed to consolidate the operations of their 350 employees from three existing leased downtown buildings to a single State Fund operated facility that would accommodate future growth to 400 FTE. MSF worked closely with the City of Helena to identify potential sites in the urban center of Helena and settled on a 59,742 sf lot in the downtown area directly adjacent to a city owned surface parking lot of 90,060 sf. In order to increase parking in the region, the City began work on a new parking structure on their lot in coordination with the MSF Building. Both sites are directly across Front Street from the Great Northern Town Center, a new high density mixed use development. Both the new State Fund lot and the Great Northern Town Center lie directly north of the historic downtown district. In order to most efficiently accommodate the parking garage footprint, maximize street orientations, and allow a more ideal solar orientation for the office building, the design team designed the structures independent of the existing lot lines and then re-platted the lots to accommodate the final design.

Project design began with a road trip and goal setting charrettes which resulted in setting a goal of LEED Gold certification. State Fund’s decision to pursue LEED stemmed from many factors, first among those was the desire to create a safe, healthy, and productive workspace for their employees, and serve as a demonstration project for the many businesses they insure. State Fund also wanted to set an example for the public buildings in other areas of sustainability.

Project Description:
The State Fund office building design began with site orientations. The Sites' primary axis runs along 14th street to the south and the west side runs along Front Street. The site slopes approximately 15 feet from the low end at the NW corner to the high side at the east end along 14th Street. The corner of 14th Street and Front is the obvious focal point of the site and became the public point of entry. The entry is located at an intermediate level between the lower level and the main floor. This separate entry level creates and entry that is easily accessible and helps create a clearly defined security separation between public and employee-access areas.

The structure is organized in two distinct floor plates that area slightly skewed from one another and offset east-west. Between the two floor plates is situated a wedge shaped, light-filled, atrium space, dramatically increasing access to daylight and views for all building occupants. The atrium created by the skewed plates also acts as the employees’ “front door” when entering the building from the parking garage connected to the north-east corner of the office building. The primary office block features a large glass curtain wall along 14th Street that fills the office area with controlled daylight. The north office block features ribbon windows along the west, north and east orientations allowing access to daylight and dramatic views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

Lower Level: The lower level is 23,970 gross square feet primarily used as mechanical and storage space. A small group of employees that work in the document receiving and scanning functions are located in the NW corner of the lower level. This location is at the lowest point of the site where the lower level daylights, allowing significant windows and daylight into the workspace. The lower level also houses a 5,000 gallon rainwater collection system that is fed from third floor and upper roof levels. The rainwater is stored, filtered and used for landscape irrigation throughout the site.

The main floor is 37,976 square feet and includes two offices blocks, a central light atrium and the public lobby/entry area. The design of the public and office areas focuses on creating open, light filled spaces with ready access to conference rooms and inviting collaborative spaces. The atrium connects the north and south office blocks while also connecting the main public entry with the rear employee entry from the parking garage. All offices spaces on this level are built with an 18” deep access floor for data systems and air delivery. The finishes on this level, especially in the public and common spaces focuses on the use of regional materials including Montana quarried slate and douglas fir wood finishes.

The second floor is 33,643 sf dedicated to office and support functions. The second floor offices all have generous access to views and daylight, both from the perimeter and from the central atrium space. All offices and training spaces of this level are built with 18” deep access floor. This level also houses a 2,000 square foot data center. The data center is the core of the MSF IT systems and includes the primary printing and reporting center. The data center is mechanically distinct from the other building systems and includes redundancy in all systems. The excess heat generation from the system is captured through a heat-exchange system to be used elsewhere in the project.

The third floor is 19,461 square feet of collaborative space, training rooms and offices. The third floor footprint is pulled back from the second level to allow generous usable outdoor spaces and vegetated green roofs and patio/decks. The third floor has significant glazing areas protected by generous overhangs, especially along the south façade where large training rooms and employees break areas spill out onto exterior deck spaces. The pulling back of the third floor also allows skylight at the third floor roof level to increase light penetration down to the first and second floors.

The exterior finishes are designed to reflect the building location, interior uses and orientation. The south street-facing façade is composed of brick masonry, exposed structural steel and glass, reflecting the design and materials consistent with the historic district to the south and creating a strong streetscape presence. The brick masonry and glass carry around the west façade as the building follow Front Street, maintaining the masonry dominated street theme of the area. The remaining facades are a combination of brick masonry, Swiss Pearl (solid color concrete board) panels and glass. The masonry is used to anchor the design while the Swiss Pearl panels provided a rich, colorful and lightweight cladding for non-street frontage areas.

The interior finishes feature regional products including Montana quarried slate tile flooring and douglas fir wood slat and veneer wall and ceiling panels. These materials are featured more prominently in the lobby and atrium spaces. The office areas feature access flooring, high efficiency indirect lighting, light reflecting materials and low-height offices furniture systems to increase day lighting and provide an open work environment.

The new Montana State Fund Building faces the similar challenges to other forward thinking projects in Montana. What is the appropriate level of upfront cost that should be spent to save energy, maintenance and waste costs down the road? Designing an energy efficient building has long been established as a core design principle of the project team. Sustainable design leads to better productivity and healthier occupants, energy use savings, less waste, lower maintenance costs and more enjoyable interiors. The new building will be a leading example of sustainability for the State of Montana as well as the many business partners of MSF. The long south facing façade will present the possibility for capturing and using the sun in the building. Good day-lighting, well insulated and sealed wall systems, and low maintenance material selection are at the top of the list in designing this project. In the end, the project team will celebrate the success of providing a building that achieves a respectable and identifiable level of sustainability while remaining practical and cost effective.