The 10-story, 255,610 square-foot triangular-shaped justice center contains 17 courtrooms, a café, a law library and media room, central holding, secure parking, jury deliberation suites, juvenile court, judge’s quarters, administrative offices, and plenty of quiet space for visitors to hold private conferences.
The “flatiron” building was designed with the environment and staff and public safety in mind. The building was constructed using environmentally friendly and recycled materials, and it incorporates unique design features that create separate circulation paths for staff, security personnel and secured inmates, and members of the public.
The building site’s extreme slope, irregular shape, and confined space, however, made construction particularly challenging. Due to the slope, the front corner of the building is located approximately two floors above the nearby intersection. Since the building needed to be designed into the corner of the street, efficient use of available space was a must.
The lack of laydown area onsite also posed challenges. Materials and equipment had to be stored at the Alliant Energy Center, located a few miles away. The confined space also meant limited access to the site. These factors, combined with the area’s high-traffic flow, created the need for extreme pre-planning and scheduling to accommodate equipment delivery and storage.
Because a residential area was located on the west side of the building, the construction team was confined to specific and limited work hours. On a project such as this, pours are usually orchestrated during off hours to avoid traffic and reduce safety hazards, but this project required that they be completed during the day. This also meant that equipment stored off site had to be driven over every day before morning rush hour.
Given the site’s close proximity to surrounding offices, businesses, and homes, safety was the number one priority on this job. The foundation of the adjacent public safety building was underpinned during excavation for the courthouse in order to support the existing structure. The team also reconsidered its original decision for a masonry exterior and utilized architectural precast panels that eliminated the need for eight-story-tall scaffolding at the tight site. Safety meetings were held before work started and occurred regularly during the process. These numerous safety precautions did pay off – no lost-time accidents occurred during the course of construction.
In its exterior facade, interior design, public spaces, and courtrooms, the new Dane County Courthouse truly embodies the grand authority of a modern-day center of justice. The materials used to create the building are reminiscent of yesteryear while still reflecting today’s world with its ever-present need for technological and security advances. While its visual impact is sincerely beyond compare, its user-friendly design offers a welcoming space for the citizens of Dane County.