Kings County Courthouse Scheduled for Late 2015 Completion

HANFORD, Calif. — Construction on the new 144,000-square-foot Kings County Courthouse in Hanford is well underway, with a current expected completion date of late 2015. The design of the $86 million facility will address security and overcrowding issues that the county has faced for years. It is also designed to achieve LEED Silver, making it an energy-efficient investment for the state and county.

DLR Group is serving as the architect on the project, while Sundt Construction is serving as the construction manager. Both have offices in Sacramento, Calif.

Kings County currently offers court services in two full-time locations, Hanford and Lemoore. In Hanford, the facility has so little space that the court has been forced to spread operations among four separate buildings in downtown. The Lemoore Courthouse is a small shared-use building that has one single courtroom. All five buildings have security deficiencies, are overcrowded, and some have physical and functional issues as well.

As such, the new courthouse will replace these facilities and consolidate all court operations in a modern, secure, full-service courthouse. The new facility will include 12 courtrooms, a jury assembly room and an underground tunnel, which connects the courthouse to the nearby county jail (also currently under construction) for transportation of in-custody detainees. The facility will also house a self-help legal center, family court mediation rooms, courtroom holding rooms and attorney interview waiting rooms. Security will be enhanced with separate spaces for the public court staff and in-custody detainees.

The courthouse is within walking distance of the county government center, bordered by single-family neighborhoods to the north and an undeveloped parcel to the south. DLR Group designed it to have a relationship with the surrounding facilities, while also offering views of the mountains. There is a clear pathway to the entry, featuring an exterior plaza that welcomes the public. Inside the facility, the entry lobby features a central atrium with stairs that rise four stories, offering distinct outside views from every level. The interior is organized around this central atrium, allowing first-time visitors to easily navigate between the floors and departments that branch out from this space.

The pedestrian nature of the interior circulation supports principles of sustainability and personal wellbeing, according to Darrell Stelling, AIA principal for DLR Group. A skylight in the roof increases daylight into the atrium. This connection to nature was an important design goal that is reflected in both the public and private office areas, according to Stelling.

“The building is designed as a window,” Stelling said. “The central atrium space expresses this concept on the southern and northern facades by two glazed openings at the scale of the building. These openings bring dramatic levels of natural light into the heart of the building.”

As part of an overall sustainable approach, the site is a combination of ordered parking and circulation paths, with several green spaces for people to stop and engage with the environment, Stelling said. The water captured on-site will be kept on-site. A bio-retention cell integrated into the landscape plan will allow rainwater to infiltrate back into the water table. An ice storage system will allow cooling equipment to run at night, using load shifting to reduce power requirements. Energy-saving LED lighting will be installed throughout.

“Special attention to interior environmental quality creates a more pleasant and productive experience for employees and visitors,” Stelling added. “Measures include air filtration and dust elimination, low-VOC emitting and non-toxic interior materials, and daylight and exterior views.”

The courthouse is located near the southeast corner of the existing jail. Construction on the jail addition started in July 2014, and it is scheduled for completion in late 2015. The project consists of a 67,390-square-foot expansion to the facility. The underground tunnel connecting the two facilities is also under construction.

The two buildings connect via the underground tunnel. A partial basement houses the central holding facility accessed only by the northwest stair, with secured elevators separating the public and staff from in-custody individuals being moved from the jail tunnel into the courtrooms.