AIA North Carolina Eastern Section

2009 Eastern Section Merit Award 1

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Award Winner

Skinner Lamm & Highsmith, PA Architects

Project Name: Harnett County Courthouse

Completion Date: November 2002
Location of Project:Lillington, North Carolina

Short Description of Project:

Few North Carolina counties have had the opportunity to construct a new courthouse on a new site. Our relationship with Harnett County continued on this building as it continues today on the recently designed Harnett County Public Works Facility. The challenge of this project was to provide space for the clerk of court, district attorney, tax office, register of deeds, and courtrooms in a single building that would make an appropriate aesthetic statement, be affordable and be secure. The result was a new 130,561 SF building that meets all of these parameters.

Supplemental Information:

The layout of the courtrooms in this building carefully separates the jury, judges, attorneys, detainees, and public in a way that is unseen to the users. The design committee included representatives of all departments that would occupy the building. As designers, we guided those representatives to work cooperatively in helping us understand their needs. We offered many alternative solutions to the group and patiently built a consensus with all parties. The final product has been embraced by the citizens of Harnett County and enjoyed by those who use the building.

Architect’s Statement Concerning Design Program and Solution:

The Owner desired that this building define the image of County government in Harnett County. A courthouse needs to evoke respect for the law and be a building that provides security for the users. The distinct users of this building include the Clerk of Court, District Attorney, Tax Office, Register of Deeds, and Courts. In addition, the attorneys, public, jurors and judges needed to be separated for security but integrated to provide efficient service. A user’s committee was established to allow a forum for building a consensus by working with the building user group. Since the tax and deeds departments were not associated with the courts, a separate building was linked to the courthouse for these departments. The courthouse design paired courtrooms symmetrically with the elevator/detention core serving as the vertical axis. This arrangement allows detainees to be in a secure environment from the detention cells until they reach the point of entry into the courtroom. In addition, the arrangement of the courtrooms limits public access to the floors to a single point of entry where weapons screening occurs.

Type of Construction

The building is steel frame with composite concrete floors and is clad with brick, stone and glass. The HVAC system is a four pipe system with boiler and chiller and VAV boxes. The HVAC design includes ice storage. A system of security cameras allows monitoring of the courthouse from the control area of the detention cells.

Description of Physical and Environmental Context:

The courthouse is the centerpiece of a governmental complex that includes a new health and social services building and detention center. It is located on the most prominent knoll of the site. The layout of the building provides for the future addition of a building for probation and parole.

Sustainability Features:

The HVAC system includes ice storage. The VAV system with variable speed fans and pumps minimizes energy use in the building. The building is controlled by an automated direct digital control system. The building has low E, insulated glass.