Salem Probate & Family Court


Location: Salem, MA

Total GSF: 50,000 GSF Renovation, 27,000 GSF Addition

Completed: March, 2017

LEED: LEED Gold Target

Award: 2017 Historic Salem Preservation Award, 2017 AGC MA Build New England Performance Award


The Salem Probate and Family Court Project involves the renovation of the existing structure and an addition on the north side to feature a large, high-tech courtroom. Main program spaces include four courtrooms and accompanying judicial offices, the Probation Department, the Register of Probate, and detention and security spaces.  The renovated facility exemplifies the current trend toward more Pro Se representation, flexibility of space and the need for more meeting, conference and hearing rooms instead of only large courtrooms.  The Courts Program Prototype document (Draft of Court Design Guidelines) was used as a starting point, with final design decisions made from consensus-building participation. 

This project may be considered inherently sustainable, as 70% of the required square footage comes from the renovation of the existing 1909 building. The strategy allows for thoughtful re-use of existing materials, elements and building components. However, in evaluating potential sustainable design strategies, the goals of energy efficiency will be balanced with protection of the historic property’s character-defining features and materials.  In the existing 1909 building, abundant natural light from large windows are taken advantage of, along with the high thermal inertia from the substantial mass of the heavy masonry walls.  To improve the energy efficiency of the existing building, spray-foam insulation is added to the exterior walls and to the interior of the attic roof to increase thermal performance and provide a continuous vapor barrier.  Energy modeling was used to fine-tune ‘sustainable design upgrades’ such as insulation thickness, glazing types, and high-efficiency chiller options.  The project is tracking LEED Gold certification.


Photography © Chuck Choi