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Effingham County Courthouse

CHALLENGE

Effingham County needed a safe, secure and efficient facility that would provide the space and technology demanded by today’s court systems. But for more than 100 years, the Effingham County community had identified with the image of the existing historical courthouse in its town square. As a new courthouse was planned, it was important to give great consideration to this historical image. Secure inmate transport was also essential so that surrounding downtown businesses didn’t suffer distractions.

SOLUTION

After several town hall meetings and conversations with concerned citizens, it was determined that the new courthouse would be located within the same downtown area as the existing building, adjacent to the county administration building and jail. This location allowed for links between the county buildings, creating a “one-stop shop” for county government functions.

The Shive-Hattery design team members (who were with another firm at the time) developed a new courthouse design to establish a sense of place and building identity that Effingham County community members would relate to the phrase, “on the steps of the courthouse.” This phrase indicates the potency of architecture by symbolizing the stability and authority of the judicial building.

Because going to a courthouse can be an intimidating experience, the design provides welcoming, day-lit, accessible spaces while responding to critical requirements of separate interior circulation for public, restricted and secure movements. Each floor is configured so that no breach in these discreet circulation patterns occurs.

The result is a 63,000-square-foot, three-story courthouse complex with four courtrooms. The first floor includes a lobby with security control, offices for the circuit court clerk and probation officers, and access to a drive-through vehicle sally port. Courtrooms with support spaces occupy the second and third floors. The lower level houses mechanical and electrical rooms, and has a tunnel connecting to the existing jail. This secure underground tunnel between the courthouse and jail allows for secure, private inmate transport that occurs out of sight from the public and surrounding downtown businesses.

IMPACT

The new $9.5 million courthouse provides Effingham County with the ability to grow and change throughout the next 100 years. It also allows the original courthouse to be restored and open to the public for tours. The Effingham County Courthouse project created an efficient workplace for the everyday functions of the county while maintaining the historic identity that was so important to the community.
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