January 25, 2008

Kasian designs the modern Calgary Courts Centre

A progressive approach to courthouse design
For Immediate Release

Calgary, Alberta, Canada – Today marks the opening ceremony for Alberta’s newest landmark building, the Calgary Courts Centre (CCC). Located in the heart of downtown Calgary, this soaring tower of justice stands as one of the largest and most unique courthouses in North America. With over one million square feet of space, this project required a complete rethinking of courthouse design to deliver a facility that meets the modern needs of Alberta’s justice system.

Unlike any other courthouse, this building features two glass and concrete skyscrapers that are connected by one of the largest atriums in Canada – standing at 26 storeys in height. This facility brings together several facilities into two towers – the north tower stands at 24 storeys tall and the south tower at 20 storeys.

“During our initial research and benchmarking we discovered that conventional courthouses, although stoic, are typically dark, impenetrable buildings characterized by small windows and exterior stairs. They are horizontally oriented and almost bunker like requiring long corridors that are devoid of natural light and views,” said Bill Chomik, Partner at Kasian, the principal architecture and interior design firm on the project. “We took an enlightened approach to courthouse design in order to create a sustainable, contemporary, public friendly space and to accommodate the collaborative and growing needs of the court system.”

In planning for the project, the Government of Alberta called for a “dignified contemporary facility, accessible to all, that stands in the community as the embodiment of democratic rights, individual freedoms and justice.” The architecture and design of the Calgary Courts Centre was inspired by those ideals.

The CCC is one of the few courthouses in North America to join provincial (or state) and federal jurisdictions in the same building. The design efficiently accommodates the two levels of court by providing many multi-functional courtrooms that can be used by either jurisdiction. It has 73 courtrooms and a multi-purpose room specifically designed for Aboriginal justice ceremonies. Separate traditional circulation systems have been implemented for the public, employees, and prisoners.

Designing an enormous glass atrium was done for a number of reasons. Opening the building up as a public space with its all-glass structure, the atrium creates a calming mood for courthouse users. It also provides a substantial amount of natural lighting which flows through out the building. The atrium is the main hub for traffic flow, housing 12 glass public elevators which transport users to elevator lobbies on each floor. The lobbies also act as walkways that join the two towers through the atrium and provide spectacular views of the Calgary urban landscape and the Rocky Mountains.

“We didn’t just use glass because of the natural lighting, we were also making a statement,” said Chomik.  “The design addresses the Government of Alberta’s vision for a contemporary, transparent model that reflects full accessibility for all within the justice system.”

The CCC is designed to achieve LEED® Silver certification and, if successful, will be the largest building and the first courts facility in North America to achieve this level. Features include special lighting systems that automatically adjust based on the amount of natural light entering the spaces, rainwater collection for irrigation, low-flow water fixtures, waste heat recovery, and high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment. Flexible room plans and expansion templates add to the sustainability aspect.

“Drawing from the expertise of  Kasian’s in-house sustainability team and that of our consultants, we were able to integrate a high level of ‘green’ features which will not only contribute to a healthy working environment but will also be cost effective,” said Chomik. “Alberta is putting itself on the map with their commitment to these types of projects. Our global clients are beginning to see the Canadian advantage in this area.”

The CCC has already been awarded a Premier’s Award of Excellence from the Premier of Alberta and an Award of Excellence for Design and Construction in Concrete from the American Concrete Institute.

For more information on this project, including images and a full press kit,click here.