Timaru Courthouse

A sustainable modernization of a heritage listed Courthouse


  • New Zealand


  • Ministry of Justice

Project Status

  • Completed 2010


  • 2011 NZIA Canterbury Branch Award – Public Architecture. 2011 NZIA Canterbury Branch Award – Sustainable Architecture.

The Ministry of Justice sought to redevelop the existing Timaru Courthouse as the existing buildings no longer met the standards of the Ministry.  Part of the existing 130 year old Courthouse was demolished and the retained sections sympathetically incorporated into the new design, restoring them as close to the original condition as practicable, while being fitted out for its new use as office space.  A conservation plan was required due to part of the existing buildings being category B listed Heritage buildings under the Timaru District Plan.

A new building comprising two courtrooms, two jury retirement rooms, two hearing rooms, judges chambers and associated administration and public spaces, was added to the rear of the Courthouse to provide the necessary space for modern jury trials. It features advanced security systems capable of supporting the latest technology, including video conferencing and an evidence recording service.

High quality, natural, durable materials were selected for their sustainable and energy efficient properties, and were wherever possible, locally manufactured. Coloured masonry, Timaru blue stone and zinc cladding were extensively used.  Internal spaces were designed to utilise natural light and ventilation as much as possible. Native timber veneered panels (matai and tawa) were used to provide warmth and acoustic properties. Feature roof lanterns bring in natural light and create a modern version of the old court space.

Sustainable design features were incorporated; use of materials with low embodied energy, use of low toxicity materials and production methods, use of materials with low life cycle energy demands, natural ventilation and lighting where practical, double-glazing and energy efficient glazing, high levels of insulation, low energy light fittings and a building management system to maximise the efficiency of the above elements.  Salvaged heat from the HVAC system is used for underfloor heating of public spaces.

‘The Architect has successfully enhanced the community presence of the original courthouse building and cleverly integrated the complex functional requirements of a modern operating courthouse. Subtle and generous architectural gestures demonstrate awareness of, and care for, the comfort (and safety)of the users of a building that by necessity, deals with difficult and stressful matters. Low key sustainability features complete the picture of a well-resolved public building’ NZIA Award Panel 2011.