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  Watonwan County Human Services, Page 48Watonwan County Human Services
I & S Engineers & architects, inc.
1409 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato, MN 56001

St. James, Minnesota
Total Square Feet: 17,850
Construction Period: Oct 2000 to Aug 2001

Construction Team
General Contractor: Wilcon Construction, Inc. - P.O. Box 502, St. James, MN 56081
Structural, Electrical & Mechanical Engineer: I & S Engineers & Architects, Inc. - 1409 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato, MN 56001
Cost Estimator: I & S Engineers & Architects, Inc. - 1409 North Riverfront Drive, Mankato, MN 56001

A design solution that was economical, yet aesthetically driven, was sought for construction of the new Watonwan County Human Services Building located in St. James, Minnesota. The county's human service departments were being operated in multiple locations and needed to be consolidated together into one facility to promote efficient operation of the services. The new Watonwan County Human Services houses the income maintenance, social services, public health, and accounting departments all contained within one facility.

The new building is located across the street from the existing county court house in St. James, Minnesota. Therefore, I & S Engineers & Architects, Inc. elected to propose a design that portrayed a more masculine image of governmental architecture to compliment the courthouse, yet respected the economic concerns of the community.

The site chosen had been previously occupied by three single-family homes and an existing municipal parking lot. The closeness of the human service and courthouse buildings allows human service employees to easily use the support facilities located in the adjacent courthouse. In addition, multiple court appearances by social workers will make the nearby buildings very appealing.

Due to the close proximity of the courthouse to the human services building, it was desirable to utilize colors that were represented on the courthouse to promote a campus appeal with the new building. It was also important to the county to have a building that required very little maintenance and utilized colors and finishes that employed a sense of community pride. With that in mind, the architect chose to feature the building with rock faced block, EIFS (Exterior Insulating Finish System), extruded aluminum windows, standing seam metal roofs, and reflective colored glass windows. The reflective windows also limited the views into the building from the exterior while allowing total visibility to the outdoors from within. This seemingly trivial design decision proved very beneficial to employee's sense of security while working within the building after hours.

Security concerns were at the forefront of all decisions while laying out the floor plans. As a result, ballistic resistant panels were incorporated into the walls of the lobby spaces and proximity card readers placed at every door adjacent to the public spaces to facilitate employee safety.

Upon entering the front lobby space one experiences the custom designed terrazzo flooring, barrel vaulted ceilings with exposed custom-built bowstring trusses, and clerestory lit windows to flood the lobby with natural light. Directly adjacent to the lobby spaces are public toilet facilities, a community room to house larger public and private meetings, receptionist window, and children play areas with large windows for parent supervision.

The pre-engineered metal structural system of the building has proven to be an economical and practical solution to quickly erect and enclose buildings that incorporate simple one-story footprints. The mono-sloped standing seam metal roof and structure provides more than ample space above the lay-in grid ceiling system to allow the heating and cooling ducts to coexist with the light fixtures. This also allows total flexibility for cable runs and conduit to be added in the future when required.

DIV 07: Skylights: Major Industries, Inc.; EIFS: STO.
DIV 08: Hollow Metal Doors & Frames: Curries; Overhead Doors: Overhead Door; Wood Doors: Graham Manufacturing; Hardware: Hager, Sargent, ABH Manufacturing, Pemko, Von Duprin.
DIV 09: Carpet: Blue Ridge Carpet Mills; Base: Johnsonite; Tile: Dal-Tile; Acoustical Treatment: BPB Celotex; Acoustical Suspension System: Chicago Metallic.
DIV 10: Folding Partitions: Kwik-Wall.

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