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Among the most complex aspects of the court complex's design are the unusual cantilevering fingers Window panes on building Low angle view of CJC building

Manchester Civil Justice Centre, UK

Manchester Civil Justice Centre is the biggest court complex built in the UK since the Royal Courts of Justice. The north-west England headquarters for the Department of Constitutional Affairs fulfils its demanding brief to provide a sustainable building of civic generosity and European significance.

The court complex is an exemplar of an innovative and well-executed sustainable design. It is one of our most-prolific award winning projects having scooped over 25 awards for sustainability and innovation.

Low-energy design

We were the engineering designer for the £113 million centre, which provides 47 courtrooms in a sustainable 16-storey building designed by architect Denton Corker Marshall. It features an 11-storey atrium and a spectacular 60m by 60m glass facade along the western edge.

Meeting the requirement for natural ventilation meant that the structure had to be designed to accommodate a complex web of ductwork to allow air taken in at the sides of the atrium – through wind scoops facing the direction of the prevailing wind – to circulate through the building.

The natural ventilation system is designed to maximise free cooling potential and comfort in mid-season. An intelligent building management system brings in a back-up forced ventilation system if the wind speed is too low to achieve this. Other features include an ‘environmental veil’ on the east façade to control solar gain but also maximise natural daylight, and groundwater cooling, which alone reduces cooling load energy consumption by 15-20%.

Structural challenge

Among the most complex aspects of the building design are the unusual cantilevering fingers. High tensile forces are produced at the top of each finger and high compression at the bottom.

These forces are distributed through the composite steel deck floors, via tension reinforcement where appropriate, to the main slipformed concrete corefloor. The complete trusses were fabricated and welded together at the steelwork contractor’s works. Because of their size, each unit needed a police escort and had to be delivered to site after 7pm.

Another unusual feature for a court building is the centre's large open floor spans – our bridge designers helped analyse floor vibration including the effects of foot fall.

Coordinating the structure and building services as well as meeting the architect’s requirements was a key challenge, calling for advanced 3D modelling in particular locations.

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