The new 430,000 sq. ft., $379 million Waterloo Region Consolidated Courthouse is one of five projects in a provincial initiative to create a modern, effective and accessible justice system. Construction commenced in March 2010 and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2013. The project is expected to rejuvenate a section of downtown Kitchener. NORR Architects’ project manager Bob Kushnir says the courthouse will include 30 courtrooms plus a variety of other spaces for the judiciary, court staff, Crown, legal aid, probation and parole officers as well as other public services. “There is a ceremonial court and a multiple accused high security courtroom with additional layers of security,” he said. Kushnir described how numerous consultations with stakeholders about the function of spaces which helped sort out the project, in the refinement of functional spaces, and of interweaving the separate travel paths for different user groups who each have their own levels of security, access and purposes within the building. (Courthouse buildings have special challenges –for example prisoners in custody, judges and public each have their own circulation system and they cannot intersect each other.) Although each of the five court buildings contracted through Infrastructure Ontario meets many consistent standards, each region defines its own uses for spaces and approaches to problems and efficiencies so each building is designed to meet individual local needs. In Waterloo, NORR design principal David Clusiau established the initial design, which was then fulfilled by senior designer Joe Moro. “The design conceptually relates to the natural features of the Grand River Valley,” Kushnir said. “To reflect this, the courthouse has very horizontallyoriented architectual components presented through the stonework and windows. There are striations of pattern in the precast panels, and window patterning. These are complemented by curvalinear floor patterns which mimic water courses.” The three-storey glass atrium provides a clear, logical orientation for the visitor without need for excess signage and the landscaping of the main entry civic plaza across from the cenotaph will make the building a dignified, welcoming and well-used space. The new courthouse, located at the north-east corners of Frederick and Duke Streets in Kitchener, seamlessly adapts itself to the site’s challenging six-metre drop from corner to corner, while simultaneously using the change in elevation to separate program areas within the building itself. The site design of the Waterloo courthouse was done in collaboration with the City of Kitchener and the Region of Waterloo to create a project that would both rejuvenate the downtown and serve as a precedent for urban sidewalk design. The building is designed with energy and water conservation in mind and is expected to achieve LEED Silver certification. Sight N Sound Design, a design-build audio visual consultant, has responsibility for audio visual systems including evidence presentation, voice enhancement, audio recording, video conferencing, remote testimony facilities, control systems and audio-visual infrastructure. SnS president Ken Lewis says his company specializes in complex projects. “One element that is unique to this courthouse is that it is one of the first to integrate legacy video and the new digital format,” he said. “Essentially that means lawyers have the capability to use any known video support which supports the ministry’s spirit of providing the optimal services for every person’s right to a fair trial.” Lewis says the design and mock up phases of the work have been completed and his consultants are now working with the electrical contractor on the best way to integrate the technology into the building. “The new design and the efforts of everyone involved is all about doing the best job of ensuring the court can serve the needs it is there for.”
The $250 million Elgin County Courthouse in St. Thomas, Ontario has opened. NORR designed the three-storey building in close collaboration with heritage architects Fournier Gersovitz Moss Drolet et Associés Architectes (FGMDA). EllisDon operated as general ontactor for the project. The Infrastructure Ontario public-private partnership project PPP), he first of its kind for a heritage renovation, includes design, construction, financing and maintenance. Construction began in June 2011 on the site of the historic Elgin County courthouse, originally built in 1853. The work consolidated the Superior Court of Justice and Ontario Court of Justice, formerly in separate locations, to modernize the courthouse and provide better accessibility. The building has eight courtrooms and three conference settlement rooms. A heritage courtroom has been maintained from the original building. The north and west elevations, dome and copper roof and masonry and sculptural detailing from the original structure have also been conserved and restored. A modern addition connects the heritage courthouse and a former Land Registry Office which has also been refurbished. The addition adds 135,000 sq. ft. of new space. David Clusiau, NORR’s senior principal, architectural design, says the challenges in maintaining and incorporating the old with the new were numerous but worth the effort. “We had to insert modern mechanical systems and technology into the heritage building in as invisible and unobtrusive a manner as possible,” he said. “We also needed to bring the heritage building up to standard with regard to new security processes and accessibility requirements.” The design also needed to accommodate the different circulation/access requirements for the public, accused, and judicial officials. Clusiau said the design team created an addition to enhance the original buildings, supporting and complimenting heritage elements, while meeting LEED Silver standards. He says the design has achieved all of these goals in a way that is interesting and engaging. “Aside from the public atrium at the heart of the new addition and the associated public circulation system that provides views out to the surrounding landscape and adjacent heritage courthouse, one of the interesting elements of the projects is the inclusion of a programme of heritage plaques around the site,” he said. “The multiple storey one in the main atrium as well as the display case of historical artifacts that all add another layer of interest onto the already architectural layered site.” The design needed to be flexible, as the project will serve the community for at least three decades. Clusiau says this has been achieved through the addition of two additional courtrooms on the third floor and adaptations to the existing courtrooms. “We made modifications to the millwork, creating a two-sided crest that can be flipped for use by either the Ontario or Superior Court as needed.” Sight N Sound Design, a design build audio visual consultant, installed the audio visual systems, including evidence presentation, voice enhancement, audio recording, video conferencing, remote testimony facilities, and control systems. Sight N Sound president Ken Lewis says his company specializes in complex projects. Before this project, they were also involved with the Waterloo Courthouse and the Quinte Courthouse. “One element that is unique to these courthouses is the integration of legacy video and the new digital format into courtroom evidence presentation system,” he said. “Essentially that means lawyers have the capability to use any known video support material, which supports the ministry’s spirit of providing optimal services for every person’s right to a fair trial.” All of the systems needed to be tested for consistent quality sound with a 100-hour burn-in phase. “If something is going to fail it will generally happen in the first 70 to 100 hours so we let it settle and then retest to make sure everything is still functioning as it should,” Lewis said. “Everything we installed is state-of-the art but each component was designed as the technical solution for a particular situation. Every capability meets a judicial need so it is all very efficient.” Lewis says in this case the heritage courtroom posed unique challenges. “We had to integrate the same technology into this courtroom but into the existing furniture and walls instead of using purpose-built furniture as in the case of the other courtrooms.” He says connectivity has been integrated into a newly constructed wall that resembles the original woodwork. The millwork contractor also drilled up and through existing spindles where possible to hide wiring. Lewis says this kind of solution, part of collaboration in which consideration is given to each consultant or subtrade and their particular area of expertise, is the only way such projects succeed. Now that the courthouse has opened Sight N Sound Design’s role changes, but the audio-visual experts will remain on site, reflecting the ongoing commitments in P3 projects. “We’ll do training with all of the staff and more extensive training with key people,” says Lewis. “We will also take on a role of technical support to facilities management. If they don’t know how to do something, need more training or experience a problem, we will be there for the next 30 years to lend our support.” Lewis says his company has learned a lot about the judicial process and system through their work on these courthouse projects spanning more than a quarter of a century. They continue to observe the needs and changes that occur over time, will take away lessons learned, and gain an even greater understanding of this kind of project. Clusiau says this is first heritage renovation and addition courthouse delivered through the Infrastructure Ontario PPP process. “This process has been used primarily for new buildings and is the primary funding mechanism for such large projects. It is a significant milestone that this project was able to be successfully delivered through this method and hopefully will encourage other projects of this type that retain valuable components of Ontario’s built heritage.
As published in the April 2014 issue of "The Ontario Construction Report" (Page 11/12)
Sight N Sound Design Inc. has completed its role on the $497 million 550,000 sq. ft. Forensic Services and Coroner’s Complex (FSCC) in Toronto. The highly secure LEED Gold facility houses the Toronto operations of the Center of Forensic Sciences (CFS), Office of the Chief Coroner (OCC), and the Ontario Forensic Pathology Unit (OFPU). With the recent completion of an interior fit-up on two floors, it will also house Ontario’s Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC). A DBFM (design build finance maintain) project through Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the project has been constructed through a consortium of Carillion Canada Inc., Concert Properties Ltd., Stantec Architecture, Ltd., McClaren, Wilson & Lawrie Inc., Carillion Construction Inc., Modern Niagara Toronto Inc., The Univex Group of Companies and BMO Capital Markets. WZMH Architects acted as planning and design compliance architects. Sight N Sound Design Inc. had responsibility for the complex audio and video requirements. The five-storey structure, which sits on six acres of land in Toronto’s Downsview area, also includes an underground level and has been designed to emphasize natural daylight through an expansive central atrium, includes a large green roof and many operational energy efficiencies. Internal spaces include autopsy stations, including Canada’s first Containment Level 3 autopsy suite (for higher infectious and hazardous risks), laboratories, offices, vehicle examination bays, ballistics facilities, and two courtrooms for OCC. Ken Lewis, president of Sight N Sound Design, says his company is experienced with this kind of complex, highly detailed project. The company has previously worked on several courthouse projects including in Quinte, Thunder Bay, Elgin County and Waterloo. The PEOC fit-up took place on the second and fifth floors after the rest of the building was completed and operational. Considering the project’s highly secure nature, this created some challenges but a high-standard initial design mitigated some of the problems. “The original plan was for this operation to be at another location. The fit-up requirements were high, including a tremendous amount of audio video cabling but because the building had originally been purposebuilt for labs and similar spaces, much of the essential infrastructure was there.” The PEOC includes a voice lift system with 83 separate microphones for 82 participants and 30 video screens installed on a 175 ft. long wall. “The video wall is one of the largest in the country and will allow the command centre access to a variety of news feeds, interaction with field personnel, and other streams of input so they can monitor what is happening in various scenarios and provide input and direction based on what they are seeing,” Lewis said. Lewis says the command centre will be brought online in time for this year’s PanAm Games and then will remain as the province’s operations centre. The complex audio video set-up will allow staff to deal with multiple scenarios. He says this required a high audio design requirement to avoid feedback, which is challenging considering all 83 microphones could potentially be active at the same time. “The command centre has to be available 24/7 and 365 days of the year so the longevity of the equipment was also critical,” Lewis said. The PEOC includes a main room plus five smaller suites that can be used as breakout rooms. These include a duty office, and logistics, plans, command and scientific rooms. Sight N Sound had contributed first with the original construction which included the forensic courthouses, flexible meeting room spaces and autopsy suites with viewing capabilities. “The courtrooms required the ability to record proceedings for transcripts as well as capabilities for electronic evidence, both digital and legacy.” Interpretation capabilities were also required. The facility is equipped with flexible space for meeting and training purposes. Comprised of an open space with the capability to be divided up as needed, Lewis says the audio and video requirements had to meet the flexibility demands, providing service for any possible configuration. Sight N Sound Design Inc. is a leading audio visual consulting, design and audio visual project management group based in Richmond Hill. The company has experience working with architects, interior designers, electrical and mechanical design teams across North America, Bermuda and the United Kingdom on complex corporate and courtroom projects. Lewis says Sight N Sound provides full commissioning and end-to-end performance testing and is committed to providing innovative audio visual solutions, while adhering to the highest standards of integrity and quality. “We create audio visual solutions that consider all aspects of the project to integrate the technology with the construction elements of the space.” Lewis has been awarded an International Communications Association Manufacturing award and is a two-time winner of the Best of the Best award from the Toronto Construction Association.