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18 December 2018
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Law inspiring

The Dublin County Courts of Justice showcase a PFI project in which elements of building design, operational management and energy efficiency have rewritten the way an entire profession operates. Martin Read reports.

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19 October 2015 | By Martin Read

Dublin’s Criminal Courts of Justice, believed to be the largest state building to be constructed in Ireland since 1796, is the principal courts building for the criminal courts in the Republic of Ireland. 

The €160 million building replaced the Four Courts – the Court of Criminal Appeal, the Special Criminal Court, the Central Criminal Court and Circuit and District Criminal Courts. All criminal matters in the capital, up to 250,000 cases a year, are now heard in one venue. 

Under a 25-year PFI contract, G4S FM runs operational and facilities management at the complex with almost 90 people providing catering, cleaning, security, front of house, information and help desks, archiving, mailroom and portering services, car parking, fire and safety as well as maintenance work for the whole building and all of its equipment. And G4S Integrated Services (Ireland) manages a team of jury minders who fulfil a vital role previously carried out by the Gardaí (Irish police).

Building design

The Criminal Courts of Justice is a circular building with a 10-storey high central hall. It includes 22 courts, 450 rooms and accommodation for up to 100 prisoners in basement holding cells. Each area is segregated for specific purposes – only four of the complex’s 27 lifts are for public use. Judges have their own lifts, as do prisoners being brought from the custody area. The back-of-house services also use their own dedicated lifts. Segregated stairwells are available for those who do not like travelling in lifts and for emergency evacuation.

Built five years ago under a PPP deal, the Criminal Courts of Justice complex in Dublin is centred on a large €160 million circular building with a 10-storey high central hall, 22 hi-tech courts and 450 rooms, as well as accommodation for up to 100 prisoners in basement holding cells. It’s said to be the first courthouse in the world where suspects, victims, judges, lawyers, jurors and members of the public do not meet until they enter a courtroom.

Also based within the complex, or operating from it, are the Bar Council (accommodation and facilities for 200 barristers are provided), the Law Society of Ireland, the Probation Service, An Garda Síochána (the Irish national police service), the Director of Public Prosecutions, groups supporting victims and Courts Service of Ireland personnel.

The building has a playroom and video-link facilities for child witnesses, designed in conjunction with Barnardo’s, the UK children’s charity, and video-conferencing between the courts and prisons, which proves to be an effective and cost-efficient way to deal with remand hearings.

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No ‘perp walks’

The design had to eliminate many problems with the previous arrangement, which involved running trials in a number of sites dispersed across Dublin, including the Four Courts campus, Ireland’s main court building. Poor facilities and the circulation routes that had to be used could sometimes result in the parading of handcuffed prisoners through public areas – intimidating for victims of crime, jurors and witnesses. Concentrating all of Dublin’s criminal courts business into one serviced location – was a prime requirement of the €140 million (£19m) PFI.

G4S advised on security aspects of design, adopting a “day in the life” modelling approach to analyse user experience and maximise service efficiency. Circulation routes were devised to enable all those involved in criminal cases – about 250,000 a year – to move about the building without their paths crossing (architect Peter McGovern of Henry J Lyons took advice from G4S on that aspect).

The team produced colour-coded diagrams to show precisely how the movement of people could be managed to satisfy the Courts Service of Ireland’s requirements.

“The circulation routes we devised were critical to the winning of the project,” says John Farrell, G4S Integrated Services (Ireland)’s operations manager. “We worked closely with the architects to determine the routes without compromising the building’s architectural integrity. We were also able to ensure that the building functioned efficiently, was easy to maintain, clean and keep secure.”

How the jury minders work

Uniformed jury minders use dedicated routes when escorting jurors to courtrooms; on their arrival at the public entrance on Parkgate Street, Dubliners called to jury service are met by the minders in the foyer.

“We could have up to 700 potential jurors here on a Monday or Tuesday morning,” Farrell explains, “and they are taken to a large reception area where they can have refreshments while waiting to be selected. Technology helps in the selection process – we have huge screens so that the judge can see the potential jurors and vice versa.”

After a roll call, jury minders escort 20 or 25 would-be jurors to the court where the judge empanels 12. They are taken to that court’s jury retiring room while a second minder escorts the others back to the main jury reception area. That process continues during the day and it has to accommodate disabled people in wheelchairs or those who are not able to move as quickly as others.

The management system must also cope swiftly with the need to ask juries to retire while legal points are made and bring them back as soon as the judge is ready. 

There are times when things can go awry. A juror might know a witness, the family involved, or the area where the crime was committed. It could mean the juror being called out or the whole jury being dismissed and a new one being called. One 2010 case required three such jury selections.

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Energy features

As well as being an exemplar of court design, it is also a leader in sustainability. Energy savings are incentivised by a shared saving initiative. If the utility invoice amount is between 95 and 105 per cent of the benchmark, the authority pays the invoice with G4S FM paying for any excess consumption above 105 per cent. If the invoice is below 95 per cent, the authority pays G4S FM 50 per cent of the difference. 

The initial brief called for a low-energy building with individually controlled spaces and energy consumption target of less than 240kWh/m2 a year based on criteria set out in the PPP contract. The environmental brief set by the client was to achieve a “Very Good” rating under BREEAM for Courts 2006.

Features that assist in meeting these targets are an active double skin façade, mixed mode ventilation and the use of thermal mass in courtrooms, active chilled beams, low Nox boilers, night cooling, heat recovery (from the Great Hall), and an extensive lighting management system incorporating presence detection and daylight sensing.

The double-skin façade provides solar and glare control to give good natural daylight. Based on actual data, the heat loss through the courtrooms (which have the double skin) overnight during non-operational hours is exceptionally low (circa 0.5°C).

Energy use in the CCJ is influenced by a wide range of factors: how many hours the court complex is open; how long each court is in session; how many members of the public enter the complex (and the facilities that they use); heating and control setpoint temperatures; catering demand; and hours of sunlight.

Monitoring and metering

Two hundred energy meters enable good control of energy use. A lighting management system automatically turns off or reduces the output from lamps when sufficient daylight is available or rooms are not in use. In its first year the building was operated with 25 per cent less energy than the targeted allocation.


The FM team uses an Energy Performance Index to track use patterns relative to the benchmark consumption and agreed normalisation factors. This EPI is calculated by developing a consumption target using the previous year’s performance and comparing this with the current month’s actual consumption. If the EPI is lower than 100 it means that performance is better than target, while a figure higher than 100 indicates that performance is worse than target.  

In depth: waste management

The recycling rate for the building, excluding shredding, was 95 per cent at the end of 2014 – up from 35 per cent in 2010. A key part of this success is the building’s binless office policy. General waste bins, common in the previous court buildings, were replaced by a desk tray recycler. Staff place all materials in the tray during the day, then take it to a central recycling area and segregate the items into colour- coded bins specific to each waste stream – paper, glass, cans nd so on. This idea required a major educational programme at launch, but it has now become second nature to the staff and building users.

More recently, the FM team has started working with a new sub-contractor that collects landfill waste from the CCJ. The recovered element is now diverted from landfill by shredding and processing the material into a solid recovered fuel, used as a fuel in cement manufacturing. Now 27 per cent of waste is used in this way.


In addition, a bin compactor was installed and came into operation last October. This has helped to compact waste and cut the number of bin lifts required – and the number of visits by the waste removal contractor.

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