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Billings recently celebrated the addition of a new Department of Interior building downtown at 2021 Fourth Ave. N. Sally Mayberry, regional public affairs officer for the Rocky Mountain Region with the General Services Administration, spoke with Billings Business staff about this project.


How was the decision made to build a new DOI building in Billings? This project is a result of the need for office, warehouse and wareyard space to house four agencies within the Department of Interior in Billings. The majority of this space is currently housed in the James F. Battin Federal Building with additional space from multiple leases. The Battin Building needs to be vacated due to existing environmental issues and is being sold through a public auction.


Why was the site selected? The successful offeror proposed a site based on the delineated area in the solicitation. This site was chosen due to its proximity to downtown and the accessibility provided by the 6th Avenue North and 4th Avenue North thoroughfares.


Talk about the design of the building. Were certain elements chosen to reflect the region? The building is designed to reflect current thinking in office building design. Column-free space for maximum flexibility for the life of the building, providing daylight to all users is of the highest priority with a maximum depth of 45’ to the core. Brick masonry was chosen as an exterior skin for its durability and the image that it portrays to city and region of Billings.  An ochre-colored brick was chosen as a gesture to the local indigenous sandstone that can be seen along the Yellowstone River.  

The entrance is defined with a two-story atrium space, identifying vertical circulation.  An artistic glass-and-steel canopy welcomes the visitor and clearly identifies the main entrance to the building.  Subtle detail is added to the brick at the floor and window lines by raking the joints and turning the brick in a rowlock pattern.


What are the building specifications? The building is approximately 122,000 gross square feet organized in five stories.  Four separate agencies will occupy the building.  The Bureau of Reclamation Great Plains Regional Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Regional Office will both occupy two full floors, with some additional support space on the first floor.  The Office of the Field Solicitor and the Office of Special Trustees for American Indians will occupy smaller suites on the first floor.

The building floor plan design is very efficient and accommodates economical reconfiguration as programs and uses evolve over the life of the building.


What offices/agencies will be located in the new building? The new office building will be occupied by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Regional Office, which includes the regional offices of the Office of Justice Services and the Bureau of Indian Education; the Bureau of Reclamation Great Plains Regional Office; the Office of the Field Solicitor and the Office of Special Trustees for American Indians. BIA and BOR will also occupy the new warehouse building being constructed at 108 Nall Avenue.


Describe the interior. The two-story atrium welcomes visitors to the building from the 4th Avenue North main entry.  The lobby floor is finished with granite tile, and the second floor balcony above is surrounded by a glass railing.  The elevator walls are accented by cherry wood panels with stainless steel reveals.  

 The interior design provides an efficient mix of open offices areas, private offices and various support functions.  The design maximizes efficiency, functionality and accessibility to natural daylight.


The color palette for the building interior is inspired by the grasslands of Eastern Montana.  The expression of moonlight on the landscape is the basis for warm, natural colors that were selected for the spaces.

Warm, cherry tone wood doors and accents enhance the professionalism of the workspace.

 The diagonal seismic-steel bracing remains exposed to create an architectural feature that complements the efficient design.  The exposed bracing is finished to accent the space and evokes images of the industrial uses traditionally found in East Billings.

The majority of the office space flooring is high-recycled-content carpet tile. Suspended ceilings with high-performance ceiling tile is installed to reduce background noise in the open office areas.  High-performance direct/indirect lighting provides a warm, comfortable work environment while reducing energy costs.


Were existing buildings demolished in this process? If so, were those materials recycled? An older building was demolished to accommodate the new facility. The wood timber framework was salvaged and offered for reclaimed use, but no parties were interested in utilizing the materials.


Does the new building use recycled materials or have special energy-efficient materials?

The building design meets GSA’s requirement to deliver a high-performing green facility. The building will achieve a minimum of LEED Silver certification through the incorporation of several sustainability and energy-efficiency initiatives.  The structural steel frame is fabricated from recycled steel. Carpet and floor tile is manufactured from bio-based and post-consumer recycled materials.  Ceiling tile contains a high-recycled-material content, and the wood doors and cabinets are manufactured from sustainably-managed forests.  All the paints and coatings in the building are low-VOC materials.


The building envelope consists of high-performance glazing and enhanced insulated wall systems. The building design supports extensive daylighting of the work areas. “Daylight harvesting” controls will turn off or dim lights where sufficient natural light is provided in the space. In addition, occupancy sensors will turn off lights in unoccupied areas.  Lighting fixtures that are installed are high-efficiency direct/indirect and LED units.


The mechanical system is a very efficient water-cooled heat pump system with an energy recovery unit.  The system supports the harvesting of heat from high-load areas such as conference and data rooms and redistributing the heat to other areas of the building.  The building systems are designed to achieve Energy Star certification after occupancy.


Are there other attributes of the project that would be of interest to the community?


  • Some of the key sustainable features that make this a high performing green building are daylight harvesting and controls, high-efficiency window glazing, an energy-efficient heat pump system, natural daylight, and a high-efficiency boiler.
  • The location of this building is invigorating the area where the site was selected and helping encourage further redevelopment.
  • Sustainable design is vital to GSA’s mission of providing the best value in real estate and delivering a superior workplace for the federal employees. High-performing sustainable buildings not only reduce the government’s environmental footprint, but also make good business sense.
  • Co-locating tenants will allow DOI agencies to do their work more efficiently and better support their ability to perform their mission.


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