A pivotal project in the rejuvenation of downtown Joliet, the new 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 new courthouse interprets the timeless fabric of limestone, steel, and glass in a modern expression that evokes the innovative spirt associated with this pioneering industrial-age city, while achieving a strong civic presence.
The new 369,000 GSF 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, positioned 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 new 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 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 communicates 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 wellbeing, sustainability was a driving force behind many of the design features. The project is designed for LEED Gold (anticipated) and to use 73% less energy than the average of courthouses. 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 during design 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 along with cost analysis supported the design of a steel frame superstructure.