U.S. Courts Design Guide
Renovation of Existing Courthouses
An existing facility's non-compliance with Guide standards does not necessarily justify
the need for a new facility. Often, a more cost-effective approach is renovation.
Renovation of existing courthouses requires a detailed site condition survey and a
report outlining problem areas. The report must assess the capability of existing
building systems to accommodate upgrading the facility. When considering renovation,
a careful balance must be struck between cost and consistency with criteria in the
Guide. Limitations include basic structural design, column spacing, ceiling height, etc.
that cannot be modified. Although criteria in the Guide are somewhat flexible,
particularly with regard to renovation projects, functionality and security must not be
sacrificed. If limitations prohibit efficient court use, or if the cost of renovation is
exorbitant, a new court building is justified.
Any redesign of built-in finishes, furniture, and fixtures must reflect the architectural
character of the existing structure.
When planning for the renovation of court facilities, architects, engineers, consultants,
judicial staff, and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) personnel must work together to
review planning and design documents to assure that departures from security criteria
in the Guide are acceptable. For example, current security criteria require separate
public, restricted, and secure circulation patterns in court facilities that handle criminal
trials; therefore, an existing facility with one circulation system used by both court
personnel and the public could not be used for criminal trials. Potential risks must be
weighed against the cost of renovation.
Acoustical quality is often diminished in older court facilities. The following conditions
provide examples of acoustical impact in courtrooms:
Courtrooms located on the periphery of the building often have inadequate
exterior noise isolation through the facade or existing windows.