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Case Study | Dufferin Courthouse Expansion

Project Name:                      Dufferin Courthouse Expansion
Cost:                                     $8.9 million
Year of Completion:            2012


This project includes an addition to existing house, a new jury courtroom, intake court, judicial chambers, POA court support, new prisoner vehicle sallyport, Dufferin County offices and committee room, as well as interior renovations to the 1881 County Courthouse office areas. The assignment was to design a modern addition, which would be sympathetic to the original 1881 County Courthouse precinct which consists of the County Courthouse, County Jail and Registry Office and an office addition constructed in 1973. The addition had to unify the various structures, be respectful of the heritage structures and of the adjacent neighbourhood of single-family homes.

Work was phased to ensure minimal disruption to the existing occupied County Courthouse and County offices. Much of the construction was carried out after hours to further limit disruptions to building users. Also maintaining safe and secure temporary prisoner access to the holding area during demolition and of the existing sallyport and construction of the new sallyport.

Challenges and Solutions

Heritage Building Practices

One strong design challenge was to unify structures from various time periods while being respectful and sympathetic to the heritage structures. The Dufferin County Courthouse is listed on the Canadian Register for heritage buildings, as well as the Ontario Heritage Trust. The Ontario Heritage Trust required that “through materials and detailing, the addition must remain distinct from the historic building to which it is joined.” The resulting addition compliments the existing heritage buildings, following current architectural language rather than trying to mimic the past, thereby creating a holistic redevelopment of the historic precinct. The design provides a modern addition sympathetic to the original 1881 County Courthouse precinct. Respectful of the heritage structures and of the adjacent single family homes, the addition comprises a two-storey glass, stone and brick structure with local materials selected to compliment the original limestone and brick buildings. The addition is sized to the scale of the nearby single family homes and previous additions and maintains the prominence of the original Courthouse. A light filled galleria runs the length of the addition and unifies the new and existing structures.

The success of this project is due in large part to the consultative process with the Ontario Heritage Trust that began at the schematic design stage.  Alongside County representatives we met with Ontario Heritage staff throughout the design process to ensure a design that would be modern yet sensitive and respectful of the adjacent heritage structures. These sessions also verified that the standards protecting historic buildings would be upheld. To quote the Ontario Heritage Trust, this project’s design “not only maintains the heritage value of the buildings which is informed by sound conservation practices, but also allows the courthouse to expand to meet its growing demands.”  The addition engages the existing heritage structures while leaving them unaltered by being structured to lightly ‘touch’ the existing buildings only where necessary. As part of the project, the exterior of the 1881 Registry Building has been carefully restored using brick from the same production lot as the original, salvaged from the house demolished to make space for the addition. In addition, interior decorative elements from the demolished house have been salvaged, restored and installed as features in public spaces in the addition. As well as the Ontario Heritage Trust, the preservation work on the buildings and gardens was approved by the Town of Orangeville Planning Department.


The community voiced concerns regarding constructing an addition to the courthouse. With this in mind, the process was one of commitment to the environment and the community. Consultations with the Town of Orangeville and the Ontario Heritage Trust began early in the design process to ensure that municipal and heritage concerns would be successfully addressed. The process was also one of inclusivity with input from the community via advertised public information sessions regarding the design and the town’s planning process. Demonstrating the County’s strong commitment to recommended heritage practices was a key element of discussion with members of the community.


The site available for expansion was long and narrow, bounded along one side by the existing courthouse, and on the other by a residence, thereby leaving minimal opportunities for windows. The introduction of a sky lit galleria, running the length of the addition and connecting the addition to the original structure, introduces light into the public circulation areas thereby reducing reliance on artificial lighting.


Beyond creating a healthy and productive work environment for its employees, tenants and users of the building, the County of Dufferin realized that this was a major opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to integrated and sustainable design and construction.  The expansion of a heritage building on a previously owned/partially developed site is intrinsically resource efficient and provided the basis for some of the sustainable goals for this project. Through reuse and respect of the existing infrastructure, the design/construction team was able to create an office/courts facility that was functional and sustainable. The design enabled all of the existing walls, roof and floors of the facility to be retained. The project maximized the percentage of construction and demolition waste diverted from landfill through reclamation and a recycling program. Local products and locally manufactured materials were used where ever possible. This included both the natural stone used for the facades and the wall insulation system. The bricks from house demolished to make way for the addition were salvaged for reuse in repairs of the heritage building.  Designed to LEED standards, this facility also incorporated numerous sustainable technologies including a geothermal heating and cooling system, use of occupancy sensors, tie-in to the existing building automation system (BAS), as well as an insulated building envelope (R40 roof insulation and R22 ICF walls). The introduction of a sky lit galleria running the length of the addition, connecting the addition to the original structure, introduces light into the public circulation areas thereby reducing reliance on artificial lighting. These initiatives resulted in significant energy savings for the County.


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