Fourth District Court of Appeal - New Courthouse and Parking Garage
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Best Project

Owner: State of Florida, Dept. of Management Services
Lead Design Firm: KBJ Architects
General Contractor/Construction Manager: The Weitz Co.
Civil Engineer: ATKINS
Structural/MEP Engineer: TLC Engineering for Architecture

Built as a replacement for an existing 50-year-old courthouse, the new three-story complex stands majestically in downtown West Palm Beach in place of a former parking lot. The 43,711-sq-ft building includes a courtroom with mahogany-stained millwork and intricate barreled ceilings with glass-reinforced panels; 14 judicial suites; and a second-floor courtyard located directly above the courtroom. Security is a subtle feature within the courtroom and features 1.5-in.-thick bullet resistant fiberglass panels incorporated into the judge’s bench and court clerk’s partition.

Architecturally designed to resemble a contemporary interpretation of a classical building, the courthouse facade combines cast stone and precast 40-ft architectural columns, which were delivered to the jobsite in half-segments. With overhead power lines and poles located just 20 ft away from the entrance, each column had to be hoisted above and through a prebuilt steel superstructure protruding from the building. Ensuring that each element fit properly required precise coordination of both the steel and column erection processes, which included engineering temporary bracing and aligning precast joints back into the building’s cast stone veneer reveals as each column was placed.

Technology proved instrumental throughout the project, from the virtual 3D model of the building exterior to fine-tune constructibility issues, to the use of BIM to ensure compliance with Palm Beach County code requirements and to avoid major clashes as MEP systems were installed. The project team also relied on BIM to compensate for two weeks of work interruptions forced by the arrival of hurricanes Matthew and Irma. The project team also used another technology innovation, a 360-degree camera, to document overall project progress and inspections as well MEP layouts prior to drywall panel installation.

As required by the state of Florida, the new courthouse features public-accessible “pocket parks” with shade trees, benches and sidewalks composed of hand-crafted tiles. A “Light of Justice” sculpture, consisting of a basalt column topped with a golden onyx stone carved down to its crystalline core, allows sunlight to shine through, creating the appearance of a flame. In addition, a colorful mural painting tops the upper deck of the new four-story precast parking garage located behind the courthouse.

Despite the project’s multifaceted requirements and sometimes hectic work schedule, the project team completed the courthouse on schedule and within budget, recording approximately 418,000 hours without a lost-time accident.