Wellington Supreme Court, New Zealand

Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group commenced design development in 2006 for the finalized scheme—a major refurbishment and restoration of the existing Old High Court building and the new Supreme Court building on the site of the former Justice Park on Lambton Quay, Wellington, New Zealand. Tetra Tech provided communications, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and security services.


  • Construction Cost: NZD$80 million (USD$50 million)
  • Client/Owner: Ministry of Justice
  • Architect: Warren and Mahoney
  • Contractor: The Building Intelligence Group
  • Completion Date: 2010

This project required a sensitive renovation of the existing heritage building combined with the provision of a state-of-the-art new Supreme Court building. The design brief required innovative solutions that optimized the internal environmental quality, occupant comfort, and energy signature of the building.

Electrical and communications elements had a high level of requirements for the design, with secure and reliable videoconferencing a key element in the design success. Our team leveraged the experience gained across theater and studio projects to ensure that the design had the necessary capabilities for the unique requirements of a courtroom.

The Supreme Court complex incorporated several sustainable building features implemented by our team such as:

  • The HVAC system, which was designed to accommodate the highly variable occupancy and usage patterns anticipated throughout the building, allowing the non-occupied areas to be stepped down, which lowers the energy consumption of these spaces
  • Displacement ventilation, which was a feature of the Old High Court building, allows fresh airflow into the new courtroom and library in the new building and into the Number 1 Courtroom and the conference room in the Old High Court building. This design was chosen for the large public spaces to provide high-quality internal conditions with minimal energy consumption
  • Solar panels that provide water heating for the complex, enhancing the renewable energy framework for the project
  • The building fabric and external bronze screen, which provides a high-performance thermal envelope that limits solar gain, reduces heat loss, and acts as a security threshold, blending the sustainability benefits of improved energy efficiency and the need for physical security features in the space. Tetra Tech undertook computer-based energy modelling and lighting simulation of the building to optimize the fabric performance and the artificial lighting design while allowing good views and daylight penetration to be achieved architecturally

Interior lighting was selected to illuminate and open each space and highlight specific architectural features to enhance the aesthetics of the space as well as to provide a functional lighting design. The courtroom lighting continued this arrangement, with high levels of illumination at the judge’s bench for television broadcasting and videoconferencing purposes, along with more comfortable levels in the public areas, enhancing the occupant experience while also keeping energy consumption down.

The end result is a functional court that supports the needs of the occupants, while enhancing the architectural aspects of this impressive space.