New NCSC courthouse book reveals trends, innovations

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New NCSC courthouse book reveals trends, innovations

Modern courthouses include more technology and user features than ever before, according to NCSC’s recently released book, The Retrospective of Courthouse Design.

Retrospective, the only publication dedicated exclusively to courthouse architecture, reveals major trends, highlights architectural innovations and features 61 courthouses designed and built between 2010 and 2020. Of those, 51 are state courthouses, six are federal, and four are in Canada.

“It's inspiring to see the body of work presented and how these projects express the values and concepts of the administration of justice,” said NCSC architect Allison McKenzie, who worked on this fourth edition of Retrospectives with architect Nathan Hall, data analyst David Sayles and courthouse planner Chang-Ming Yeh. “… Many projects have considered the relationship of the courthouse to its community and local context.  This connection has been expressed through the use of local materials, iconography and art.”

One of the most obvious changes in modern courthouses involves building costs. During the past 40 years, construction costs have increased from $111 to $383 per square foot. At the same time, modern courthouses also are more technologically advanced.

Looking ahead, the book’s authors anticipate that recent changes in the delivery of court services will likely shape the next generation of courthouses in these ways:

Online public access. Courts are investing in technology with the expectation that more people will conduct court-related business without going to courthouses.

Remote hearings. New courthouses include video and audio equipment that allow court leaders to provide more remote hearings.

Video arraignments. More judges are presiding over arraignments with defendants appearing from jails via audio and video feeds. This reduces safety risks and saves time and money spent transporting defendants to and from courthouses.

Remote workers. Courts are setting aside non-assigned workstations for remote employees who only occasionally work in courthouses.

“The user experience is a priority for many projects, including how the building may influence its occupants' behaviors and overall wellness,” McKenzie said. “…The comfort of building occupants is a reoccurring theme, and we will continue to see environments designed to reduce stress which can lead to more positive outcomes for all.”

All four editions of the Retrospective of Courthouse Design are available on the NCSC website.

Nominate a court visionary for 2021 Warren E. Burger Award

If you know someone who has devoted his or her career to improving the courts, NCSC is accepting nominations for the Warren E. Burger Award, named for the late U.S. Supreme Court chief justice, who was instrumental in founding NCSC and its Institute for Court Management.

This prestigious award honors a person who demonstrates professional expertise, leadership, integrity, creativity, innovativeness and sound judgment.

Each nomination package must include a letter detailing three major accomplishments by the nominee, the nominee’s resume, and two reference letters from individuals who have direct knowledge of the nominee’s work. Go here to read the complete nominating process details.

Submit nominations to Patricia Chauvin no later than Friday, Oct. 15.