For more photos and architectural drawings of this project, click here.

A combination of timing, location, and team-work has put the Maplewood Police and Court Building, in Maplewood, N.J., in a truly unique position. It is New Jersey's first green municipal building, and its construction has sparked revitalization in Maplewood's commercial and business district. But the project could not have come to life without an environmentally enlightened town and close cooperation between its architect, materials producers, and masons.

Town leaders wanted this symbolic building to be the anchor in an area designated for redevelopment, and to meet their commitment to green construction for all new and renovated municipal buildings.

With these guidelines in mind, architect Eli Goldstein of The Goldstein Partnership, Maplewood, N.J., studied the common elements of Maplewood's existing public buildings: red brick, archways over doors and windows, and variations on Flemish bond. “A lot of movies are shot here because our public buildings are the prototypical New England style town hall, fire house, library — and every one is brick,” he says.

To honor this tradition, Goldstein chose red brick and bright white mortar for the police and court building. He created a custom Flemish bond using headers and a mix of modular 8 and 12 in. stretchers. While he was concerned the white mortar might accentuate any imperfections in the intricate brickwork, Goldstein credits the masons from Seacoast Builders Corp. in Freehold, N.J., with doing, “a beautiful job putting it all together.”

Seacoast, a general contractor that performs its own masonry work, had a team of eight to ten Union masons working on the building for 18 months, until it was finished in February 2008. “We really felt like an important part of the project, because the architect appreciated our masons' attention to detail and quality of work,” says Seacoast president, Chip Schulz.

Making an entrance

One of the most distinctive features of the Maplewood Police and Court Building is its grand, vaulted entryway. The design tested the limits of its cast stone and brick, and the skill of its masons.

Because seismic resistance standards are high for public buildings in New Jersey, the vault had to be reinforced with a concealed lintel system. Small steel rods run through the cored brick, and hang from the structural steel beams of the walkway above.

Masons painstakingly threaded pencil rods through each brick and through the perforated plates of a prefab Halfen masonry support system. This enabled the assembly to resist tensile stresses over the long span. Secondary vaults inside the main vault made the work more complex. Where the two arches intersect, each brick had to be custom fabricated to blend with the curve of surrounding surfaces. To maintain a consistent texture and color, they could not be cut on site.

Finding the perfect brick for the vaults — in the right sizes, colors, and cores to accommodate reinforcement — required constant coordination between the architect and manufacturer, Glen-Gery Corp., in Wyomissing, Penn. Of the thousands of bricks used on the project, the fifty or so in the vault intersections were the most costly to fabricate and install.

In addition to the brick, concrete masonry materials provided interior and exterior accents, in light colors that match the mortar and create brightness inside the building. Cast stone was used for window heads, jambs, sills, and wall bases. Ground face block was chosen for exterior cladding for stair towers, and for interior walls in public parts of the building.

Decorative pilasters inside the courthouse use custom concrete block, to echo the design of ribbed columns in traditional municipal buildings. “The different combinations of materials and incredibly complex design of this building made it a challenge,” admits Schulz, “but it really is magnificent – like a work of art.”

The building is LEED Silver certified, setting a high standard for new construction in Maplewood. Brick contributed to this certification, providing regional materials credit.