A combination of architectural blocks and traditional brick produce a standout design that blends well with surrounding buildings.
Serving more than 184,000 citizens and housing nearly 1,200 inmates, the Hall County Sheriff’s office simply ran out of space, requiring a move from the old county jail to a 33-acre Government Center campus in Gainesville, GA. The new three-story, 50,000-sq.-ft. headquarters opened in 2016 at a cost of approximately $5 million.
“After looking at the renovation of existing space at numerous other locations, the Sheriff’s Office [personnel] decided the design and build of its own building at the administrative campus was the most practical and economical alternative,” stated Doug Straughan, a principal partner at the Hussey Gay Bell architectural firm, Savannah, GA. “The goal was to design a durable, low-maintenance facility with a contemporary look and feel that blended with the existing complex, yet stood out. Given it was a municipal project paid [for] through a special-purpose sales tax, we were extremely cognizant about meeting these requirements, while maximizing budget at every turn.”
Hussey Gay Bell began the assignment by creating a look for the Sheriff’s Office that complemented the modern, concrete-and-glass style of existing Government Center buildings, while creating a one-stop shop of municipal services for citizens. Other considerations involved saving money by using the existing site’s infrastructure and providing the space needed for additional growth.
The architectural firm worked seamlessly with the township to combine savings with quality throughout the process. Once completed, the final price point for the facility hovered around $100/sq. ft. Most of the structure’s cubicles and furnishings were purchased from surplus stores, while the interior labor, such as painting and framing, was supplied by inmates.
Another essential element was the choice of masonry. Hussey Gay Bell chose to include Oldcastle Architectural’s (Atlanta) Echelon brand of polished-face architectural block, multi-colored split-face block, and brick veneer.
“It really helped coming to the table with some very quality, but economical block options,” said Straughan. “We worked closely to present a wide variety of samples and options. This flexibility and creativity allowed us to produce a high-profile, terrazzo-type look at a block-type price. They [Oldcastle] assisted in the selection of grout colors that matched with the brick and the split face, and worked closely with the contractor.” He noted that the products were easily integrated with a local brick manufacturer’s products.
Hussey Gay Bell started the process by showing the client masonry samples as well as a rendering of the finished project. This highlighted how the gray smooth and split-face masonry, with matching grout and mortar, “blended nicely” with the traditional Cherokee brick. Full-sized samples of the Echelon blocks were shown to the client before installation to ensure approval and “so they could see for themselves how the cool, gray masonry played against the warm, red veneers.”
The Echelon masonry blocks were inserted into a wall system consisting of 6-in. metal studs, gypsum wall-board interior, and exterior gypsum sheathing.
The Hall County Sheriff’s office features a curved-wall design in the front, along with accent walls on the corners, highlighted by two-story glass windows. Seven-thousand pieces of black-and-gray Echelon architectural polished face block were combined with 8,500 pieces of architectural colored split-face and traditional brick to provide a multi-textural, “modern meets rough-hewn” style to the building’s design.
Infused with recycled glass, Echelon polished face block is different from conventional ground face. It is produced with a 10-head wet-grind process that starts with an 80-grit diamond and works its way to a 3,500-grit polishing wheel, giving the final finish a high luster. The split-face block is an integrally colored pre-finished block with a rough-hewn texture on one or more faces of the unit. Available in a variety of shapes and colors, the product offers as high as a 4-hr. fire rating and is suitable for interior and exterior use.
After partnering with the architect to select materials, Echelon representative Anne Olausson worked alongside the contractors through the end of the project. “I helped to educate the masons on how to care and clean the product,” she said. “This was a very high-profile and important job for Hall County and I wanted to do everything possible to ensure Echelon was there to help see it through. The result is beautiful and we were proud to be a part of the project. As Straughan put it, “This kind of building is not something you see very often in North Georgia. It’s quite an achievement.”