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U.S. Courts Design Guide

The U.S. Courts Design Guide sets forth the federal Judiciary’s requirements for the design, construction, and renovation of court facilities.

The U.S. Courts Design Guide (Design Guide) is intended for use by judges, architects, engineers, General Services Administration (GSA) personnel, and court administrators who are involved in federal court construction projects. This latest edition, approved in March 2021, is intended to provide guidance for the interpretation and applicability of building standards and Judiciary policy, and to incorporate industry standards and best practices for the design and construction of federal courthouses.

Since every district has its own set of unique opportunities and challenges, this Design Guide update emphasizes the need for flexibility in the design and construction process. Project stakeholders are encouraged to collaborate and think creatively about their spatial needs to uphold the integrity and accomplish the mission of the federal court system. 

Design Guide Video Series

Introduction to the 2021 Design Guide: U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Helmick, of the Northern District of Ohio and chair of the Judicial Conference of the United States Committee on Space and Facilities, provides background on the process and reasons for updating the U.S. Courts Design Guide.

Overview of Changes in the 2021 Design Guide: This video provides a chapter-by-chapter summary of key changes incorporated in the 2021 U.S. Courts Design Guide.

How to Operate the 2021 Design Guide Usability Features: The 2021 U.S. Courts Design Guide has many features to improve navigation and access to information. This video provides an overview.

Looking Forward to Future Updates: This video provides an overview of the process for future updates to the U.S. Courts Design Guide and discusses some complementary publications that will be available to help users apply the Design Guide to projects.

Best Practices Guide

The Best Practices Guide serves as a companion to the U.S. Courts Design Guide (Design Guide). It provides policy guidance and technical requirements for federal judiciary projects, however, the document does not provide examples, lessons learned, or case studies for how these requirements may be implemented. As a companion document, the Best Practices Guide demonstrates the need for and applicability of the Design Guide by providing these missing components. This document captures industry best practices and lessons learned from courthouse planning, design, and construction projects throughout the federal judiciary.

Best Practices Guide Workshop: This video explains the purpose, content, and navigation of the Best Practices Guide, and addresses how to submit your questions and suggestions for its improvement to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Previous Versions of the Design Guide

2007 U.S. Courts Design Guide (pdf) (13 MB)