A pivotal project in the rejuvenation of downtown Joliet, the Will County Courthouse replaces an existing courthouse with a modern and secure justice center. Drawing on the predominant material palette of historic downtown Joliet, the courthouse interprets the timeless fabric of limestone, steel, and glass in a modern expression that evokes the innovative spirit associated with this pioneering industrial-age city, while achieving a strong civic presence.

The 369,000 sf facility accommodates 38 courtrooms serving criminal, civil, family, probate, traffic, small claims, foreclosure, and drug courts. The ten-story tower is composed of four court floor plates complete with judges’ chambers and jury deliberation suites. Accessibility is integrated into the circulation corridors adhering to universal design principles. Court agency space accommodating outpost offices for the State’s Attorney, Adult Probation, Law Library, and Sheriff are located in the four-story wing, perpendicular to the tower mass. At ground level, the light-filled public lobby with direct access to jury assembly, traffic court, and the Circuit Court Clerk public service area is expressed as a temple to social equity and open access to justice.

The courthouse also engages the public with a welcoming landscaped plaza and conveys the notion of “transparency in justice” through the generous use of glass in all public areas. Beginning with the entrance lobby and procession through all public interfacing destinations, access to daylight and respite areas were provided to mitigate the stressful nature of the justice experience. The building massing and organization communicate programmatic clarity and differentiation of public, private, and secure program components. Green roofs and terraces, accessible for juror’s breaks, extend the ground-level landscape theme into upper-level public areas.

In addition to safety and well-being, sustainability was a driving force behind many of the design features. A wide variety of sustainable features were leveraged including a solar array, rainwater harvesting for irrigation, and radiant heating & cooling systems. Sustainable analysis of the building included extensive daylight and energy analysis to fine-tune the amount and locations of glass on the façade to ensure the interior spaces were pleasant and well-lit. Embodied carbon analysis and cost analysis supported the design of a steel frame superstructure.

The final mechanical system design was determined by energy efficiency, construction budget, comfort, and indoor environmental quality. The chillers installed in the project are magnetic bearing type centrifugal chillers which have the highest efficiency compared to other types of chillers available. Radiant cooling and heating system was installed in the lobby areas on all 10 floors and is controlled by in-floor temperature sensors. The project implemented the use of many LEAN process tools including Choosing By Analysis (CBA) matrix, which helped to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of every system type. Based on the energy model for the facility the average annual energy usage for the HVAC system designed has a cost improvement over the baseline of 27% compared to a conventional HVAC system utilizing ASHRAE 90.1-2007 compliant system. The LEED Gold Certification awarded to the project is evidence of the thought and importance of environmentally conscience design.

Photo Credits: Kendall McCaugherty, James Steinkamp, and Connor Steinkamp

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The courthouse aims to be approachable and give an impression of transparency and accessibility of the judicial system to the public.

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2018 Justice Facilities Review – Citation (Highest Honor), AIA Academy of Architecture for Justice

2021 Design Award – Distinguished Building (over $5 million) Excellence, AIA Northeast Illinois

2022 ASHRAE Illinois Chapter Technology Award – Excellence in Engineering – Project Report

LEED Gold Certification


The Retrospective of Courthouse Design 2010-2020 published by the National Center for State Courts

Project Personnel