The Madera County Superior Courthouse

Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group provided mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering services for the courthouse in Madera, California. The existing courthouse suffered from a variety of functional, security, and energy deficiencies, indicating that a new building offered the best option.


  • Size: 115,804 square feet
  • Construction Cost: $100 million
  • Client/Owner: Administrative Office of the Courts, California Court of Appeal, Fifth District
  • Architect: AC Martin
  • Contractor: Holder Construction
  • Completion Date: 2015

With its courthouse in need of modernization, the City of Madera decided to replace it with a new and updated structure. Its previous facility—a converted and condemned schoolhouse—had fallen so far out of date, that jurors took breaks in lawn chairs, and employees and visitors used the same hallways as inmates, creating major safety concerns. The new courthouse design was required to meet the California Trial Court Facility Standards, which feature an aggressive sustainability mandate to balance initial construction costs with projected life cycle operational costs. A new facility would not only enhance the court’s ability to serve the public, but also serve as a point of civic pride.

The new four-story, above-grade building features a single-floor, below-grade basement and a four-story, 90,000-square-foot parking structure. An example of the sustainable building engineering services Tetra Tech provided is the design of a system of active chilled beams that utilizes water that runs through pipes throughout the facility to cool the interiors and minimize costs and energy usage. Occupancy sensors were installed throughout to further mitigate energy waste. The first floor features a sally port, which functions as the secure loading and unloading zone for persons in custody, eliminating the untenable situation of having inmates sharing hallways with employees and visitors.

The facility features 10 courtrooms, 10 judicial chambers, administration and jury spaces, and underground parking. Digital screens greet visitors with directions and information regarding the location of court cases, enhancing the efficiency of service by replacing outdated bulletin boards.

The completed facility accomplished the goals of the city to provide a functional, secure, and sustainable courthouse. Citizens can now appreciate and use the facility with community pride.

Image courtesy of James Ewing