AAJ Bay Area Discusses Evolving World of Design for Law Enforcement

The San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) hosted the Academy of Architecture for Justice’s (AAJ) Bay Area fall conference in mid November.

Susan Oldroyd, chair of the AAJ Bay Area, began the meeting by introducing Mike Davey, the new co-chair. Davey has practiced architecture with Lionakis, a California design and engineering firm, for 20 years.

Lorenzo Lopez, AIA, LEED AP, at Nacht & Lewis Architects, gave a presentation on this year’s Justice Facilities Review. Profiles for the selected projects will be published in the upcoming issue of the AAJ Journal.

Lopez, who served as the chair for this year’s Justice Facilities Review jury panel, announced the 2012 citation recipients, the projects that earned the highest honor. Those projects included the Johnson County Youth & Family Services Center, which was designed by Treanor Architects + Mark Ryan Studio; the University of Arizona Medical Center, designed by Cannon Design; Fort Worth Polytechnic Heights Neighborhood Police Center, designed by Perkins+Will; and the North Butte County Courthouse, designed by Tate Snyder Kimsey.

He also explained plans were moving forward to create a database of past winners. The database will include more detailed information about each project, closer to what the jurors receive.

Jennifer Willard, supervising AV/video systems technical analyst for the California Administrative Office of the Courts, gave a presentation entitled Tomorrow’s Courthouse and the Future of A/V Technology. She explained the evolving world of video conferencing and other technologies being used in the courthouse.

Willard also explained some of the pitfalls of installing video technology in the courtroom, including some ways courts have been found to violate due process for making mistakes with technology in the past. She said that a defendant could challenge everything from the size of a television monitor the jury uses to review evidence, to the placement of video-conferencing equipment inside a jail. She said most people were focused on the courtroom, but having an acceptable arrangement at correctional facilities to give defendants a fair trial during video-conferencing court appearances was equally important.

Beverly Prior, FAIA, NCARB, LEED AP, at HMC Architects, closed out the meeting with a presentation entitled Repurposing Existing Facilities. She explained that the idea of buying old structures and repurposing them is very popular on the local level, but presents some major risks and challenges in the law enforcement field. Prior gave several examples where law enforcement ended up sharing parking space with commercial businesses, including preschools and daycares, which was less than ideal.

She added that many repurposed sites, like old shopping malls, suffered from issues like having too many entrance points to the facilities parking lots or too few major roads connected to the facility. Prior explained there was a delicate balance at a police office between controlling who can enter the facility and also giving officers multiple routes to exit, in cases of extreme emergencies and natural disasters, where some roads may cease to be viable. She explained that economic problems were driving many agencies to accept facilities that would have been considered to have major flaws in the past.