Hearing rooms are typically located in office building shell and core structures housing federal agencies and are used for, but not limited to, the conduct of civil (non-criminal) proceedings, typically involving arbitration, mediation, or adjudication of cases where the U.S. government is the defendant. Federal agencies using Hearing Rooms include:
- Board of Contract Appeals for various agencies
- U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) Hearing Rooms
- U.S. Department of Labor Administrative Law Judges
- U.S. Internal Revenue Service Appeals Office and IRS Chief Counsel
- U.S. Veterans Administration Board of Veterans Appeals.
The design of Hearing Rooms involves many of the design attributes found in courtrooms, except that Hearing Rooms have no requirements for prisoner handling; are smaller in scale; and have a variety of agency specific support space requirements that differ from courtrooms in courthouses. Typical features of Hearing Room space types include the list of applicable design objectives elements as outlined below. For a complete list and definitions of the design objectives within the context of whole building design, click on the titles below.
Hearing rooms should be designed with flexibility in mind to accommodate changing needs of the staff or users of the spaces.
Provide lifts at the Witness Stand. The Judge's Bench should be made accessible by an additional stop of the Witness Stand lift.
The Occupancy Group Classification is Business B-2; Assembly A-3, with sprinkler protected construction and GSA Acoustical Class A for critical noise-sensitive spaces.
Support spaces attached to the hearing room, agency specific for judicial, records, attorney conference, copy, etc.
Raised floor is the preferred system for distribution of critical services (power, voice, data, and HVAC). Raised floors may have low-pressure high induction diffusers and be constructed of concrete-filled metal pans at 24"; modules with pedestal and stringer support, with intermediate support. Hearing Room floors include a Well area, which has an 8" raised floor above structural slab with concrete filled pan on pedestals; Judge's Bench with 12" raised dais above the Hearing Room floor; the Hearing Room Clerks area has 6" raised dais above the Hearing Room floor; Witness Stand is 6" raised dais above the Hearing Room floor. The public seating area and Hearing Room well are at the typical raised floor.
The well area should have lighting designed for document reading by participants. Judge's Bench and Witness Stand to have recessed down light above with compact fluorescent lamp every 10 SF. Dimmable light controls located at the Judges Bench, Hearing Room Clerk station.
Incorporate technologies that allow for e-briefings and other visual exhibits and presentations. Design these technologies into the space in places where they are accessible and visible to all.
Ballistic barriers and secure locking latches are an option, depending on the agencies' risk analysis and are considered a special cost item.
Cybersecurity needs to be addressed as a policy and implemented, including through education and training of staff and employees.
- A holistic approach to sustainability and green building design strategies should be considered and planned for the whole building. However, hearing rooms should also be designed and planned with natural daylighting, energy efficient lighting, healthy indoor air quality, and Low and/or No-VOC materials, furnishes, and finishes whenever possible. To save or reduce energy use, consider occupancy sensors, dimmable ballasts, and energy efficient task lighting. To increase occupant comfort, provide individual control of HVAC in these rooms, wherever possible.
The following diagram illustrates a typical Hearing Room.
Example Construction Criteria
Relevant Codes and Standards
The following agencies and organizations have developed codes and standards affecting the design of hearing rooms. Note that the codes and standards are minimum requirements. Architects, engineers, and consultants should consider exceeding the applicable requirements whenever possible:
- ICC IBC International Building Code
- PBS-P100 Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service, GSA
- Public Buildings Service Pricing Desk Guide, Edition No. 2, GSA
- Standard Level Features and Finishes for U.S. Courts Facilities
Accessible—Provide Equal Access and Flexibility, Aesthetics—Understanding the Language and Elements of Design, Functional / Operational—Account for Functional Needs, Functional / Operational—Ensure Appropriate Product/Systems Integration, Productive—Assure Reliable Systems and Spaces, Productive—Provide Comfortable Environments, Secure / Safe—Occupant Safety and Health
- Architectural Graphic Standards, 12th Edition by The American Institute of Architects, Dennis J. Hall. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2016.
- Building Type Basics for Justice Facilities by Todd S. Phillips & Michael A. Griebel, New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., July 2003.
- Green Courthouse Design Concepts, 1997.
- PBS-P100 Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service, July 2018.
- Standard Level Features and Finishes for U.S. Court Facilities, October 1, 1996.
- U.S. Courts Design Guide (Judicial Conference of the United States), 2007.