Green Building objectives (along with certification processes like LEED) can be beneficial to both the environment and to the individual court when they are applied to a courtroom renovation project. Sustainable building practices relating to a courthouse may fall into several general categories, including the following:
- Construction procedures
- Operations and maintenance procedures
- Court and courtroom processes
- Courtroom component design
- Selection of materials
Of the sustainability categories listed above, the two architectural categories are the most likely to include measures whose implementation might be limited in a courtroom renovation project. As an example, courtroom component design factors such as high ceilings and resulting large volumes needed for visibility of proceedings may conflict with sustainability practices intended to minimize energy use. Limited windows may be needed for reasons of security. This may also conflict with sustainable building practices intended to provide increased natural light and ventilation to the courtroom. Similarly, materials that need to match historic conditions for preservation requirements may not be available in sustainable agricultural-based versions. As a rule, in a courtroom renovation project, all possible sustainability measures should be pursued, but not those that would result in reduced courtroom functionality or historic quality.
Sustainable Courtroom Renovation Example
This photograph of a Seattle courtroom is an excellent example of a courtroom renovation project that was successful in the balance of sustainability objectives with functionality and preservation objectives.
The courtroom received a LEED certification, while reusing and recycling existing historic materials. The historic walls were reused because of their thickness (or “thermal mass”) that transmit heated and cooled air more slowly than modern, thinner insulated walls. The cork tile flooring, dating back to the original 1930s era building, was restored and by itself can testify to the importance of longevity with regard to sustainable products.
When performing courtroom renovation, a balance must be struck between the goals of using sustainable materials/features versus functionality and preservation. It is up to the design team to strike this balance. It is refreshing to see courtroom renovation projects, like the Seattle project mentioned above, adopting sustainability as a reachable goal. We hope that many more projects will adopt this goal in the future.
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