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Historic High Tech

Much like the rest of Boston's downtown area, the John Adams Courthouse (the former Old Suffolk County Courthouse) is an historic building that has seen the world evolve into today's modern technological society. To keep pace with the times, the Adams Courthouse underwent a massive renovation and construction project that was finished in January 2005.

The newly refurbished courtrooms of the historic John Adams Courthouse offer modern AV amenities, such as live video feeds and courtroom recording systems, while keeping the integrity of the building's 1894-era style and architecture.

The newly refurbished courtrooms of the historic John Adams Courthouse offer modern AV amenities, such as live video feeds and courtroom recording systems, while keeping the integrity of the building's 1894-era style and architecture.

CHALLENGE: Design modern AV and Web casting systems for newly constructed and renovated courtrooms that are part of an historical courthouse.

SOLUTION: Create a reliable infrastructure using proven technology, and partner with a nearby law school to host the Web casts.

MUCH LIKE THE REST of Boston's downtown area, the John Adams Courthouse (the former Old Suffolk County Courthouse) is an historic building that has seen the world evolve into today's modern technological society. To keep pace with the times, the Adams Courthouse underwent a massive renovation and construction project that was finished in January 2005.

Originally designed by Boston city architect George Clough, the courthouse was completed in 1894 at a cost of about $3.8 million. The recent renovation and construction effort was led by architectural firm CBT Architects under the management supervision of Massachusetts' Division of Capital Asset Management with a project cost of $147.4 million.

The project included rebuilding the courthouse roof and infrastructure, and adding modern amenities such as updated HVAC, electrical, ventilation, security, and fire protection systems as well as new windows, stairways, elevators, and handicapped-accessible features. The Adams Courthouse has courtrooms and office space for the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court and the Social Law Library.

To design the Adams Courthouse sound system and acoustics, the architects turned to Cavanaugh Tocci Associates, an audio and acoustical consulting firm in Sudbury, Mass. “Our firm got involved in the project back in 1993 for early schematic design work,” says Matthew Moore, principal consultant at Cavanaugh Tocci. “In late 2000, we completed the sound system and acoustical design.”

Moore worked with John Foulkes and Tony Hoover, both of Cavanaugh Tocci, to fill the scope of work that included acoustical design, sound reinforcement, courtroom recording systems, evidence presentation systems and a video system capable of providing feeds to the press and others in the building.

Because of the historical restoration and nature of the court, Cavanaugh Tocci kept the appeals court audio system very simple. “Conduit could not disturb the fabric of the building,” says Moore. “Since these are appellate courts, there is no need for an evidence presentation system. Audio components such as flexible gooseneck microphones provide the utmost ease of use.”

In the new construction portion of the Adams Courthouse, the Supreme Judicial Court occupies two courtrooms, including the largest called the seven-justice courtroom, which gets its name from the seven justices that sit on the bench. This courtroom is often used for high-profile trials and hearings. Moore says, “This was a challenging architectural environment, because of the large skylight in the middle of the ceiling and because of the many soffits in the room.”

Speech intelligibility was an important goal, and locating loudspeakers was difficult. The sound system is a mix-minus system using Audax HP080G0 speakers installed around the judge's bench, lawyer and clerk. There are Atlas Sound FC104T47 ceiling speakers installed over the main audience gallery and the adjacent viewing room.



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