Doing justice to sustainability

The opening in September of a 90,000sq ft Civil Justice Centre, engineered to BREEAM Excellent standards by Hilson Moran, represents the culmination of a landmark project and the latest success in the consultancy’s long established working relationship with the owner/developer Scottish Widows and Development Manager Hanover Cube.

The previous location for the Bristol County Courts had been at Lewin’s Place and The Guildhall. However the condition and layout of the existing civil justice estate presented several problems – including DDA compliance and configurations for the modern day requirements of all court users. In particular, facilities in The Guildhall were inadequate for the segregation and protection of vulnerable witnesses. When the Bristol Family Proceedings Court also merged with Bristol County Court administration in 2007, it became even more of a necessity to provide a new location suitable for all civil and family proceedings.

The solution was a new, seven storey Civil Justice Centre, designed by Associated Architects to support the smooth running of the Court Service. As the largest Civil Court in the South West, it required a large amount of courtroom flexibility to accommodate the fluctuations in demand for civil and family business. The new Centre was future proofed to meet all the HMCS’s business needs with a total of 15 courts and hearing rooms, including six large civil courts, a fraud court, family proceedings court, civil jury court and six civil hearing rooms, together with associated consultation rooms and staff accommodation.

The greatest challenge of the brief was to fulfil the complex circulation and security needs of this major civic building, in a way that would ensure the public is separated effectively from the judiciary, so that the meetings between the two parties could only be conducted within the controlled environment of a court hearing. This strongly influenced the layout of the building, which had to be easily comprehensible to new visitors while also ensuring the security and appropriate segregation of witnesses.

To fulfil these requirements, Hilson Moran developed a creative vertical transportation strategy, which plays a vital role in segregating and ensuring the security of the different parties in court cases. The solution incorporates three lifts: one solely for the use of judges and the remaining two for use by the public and witnesses, one of which is also to be used by fire crews in case of emergency. The group of two lifts used by both staff and public areas can be restricted by staff solely for the movement of witnesses, when required.

Hilson Moran also developed the new courthouse building network infrastructure, capable of supporting WiFI, Video-links, IT connectivity in court rooms and full digital recording systems. This was configured as an integrated data, voice and AV system, comprising 1,500 Cat6A 10G capable data outlets, with multiple communications rooms connected by high bandwidth multi-core fibre optic backbones, diversely routed for resilience.

To make the building as comfortable as possible for visitors and staff, the objective was to make best use of the natural environmental conditions, bringing light and ventilation into the main public spaces. Daylight modelling was therefore undertaken to create good lighting conditions, while minimising energy consumption and carbon emissions.

The building utilises natural ventilation, wherever practical, to minimise electricity consumption. A central atrium features a solar hot box which warms in the sun and the warm air escapes through vents, thus drawing more fresh air through the building from fixed vents in the roof and through ventilation shafts. The ventilation system had to be carefully integrated with the fire compartmentation and acoustics attenuation, while also protecting the privacy of court users by preventing the unwanted passage of sound.

The energy efficient Building Management System allows for sub-metering of energy use by space-heating, cooling, fans, lights and small power sources, enabling the building managers and occupants to see real time energy and water consumption. As a result of all these energy saving solutions, the building successfully achieved a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) Excellent rating. Over the next year, Hilson Moran will continue to monitor the building’s trend logging reports, in order to fine tune the controls of the central building management system.

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