COTE Tour of Dallas County Records Building
2:30 PM - 4:30 PM
500 Elm Street
Dallas, TX 75202
Brought to you by: Committee On The Environment
Talk About It
Two tours of 10 attendees each: 2:30pm or 3:30pm. Details of protocol for this tour will be distributed to those registered the week of the tour (as these circumstances continue to change). Full construction PPE and a mask will be required to enter the site.
Dallas County is reviving the Dallas County Records Building Complex by renewing each of its three historic buildings:The Old Criminal Courts Building (built in 1915), The Records Building (built in 1928) and The Records Building Annex (built in 1955) . The Complex will prove a unique intersection of the old and the new and a simultaneous encapsulation of the past, present and future of Dallas County. More information about the project can be found here and following.
Boasting a richly storied context and history, from hosting the trial of Jack Ruby to its site overlooking Dealey Plaza, the Dallas County Records Building Complex is composed of three historic buildings, all in various states of disrepair.
Built from 1915 to 1955, the buildings housed an abandoned jail, aging courtrooms, and outdated offices, which together formed a complex puzzle of misaligned floors and interior layouts. A super core-fill solution fuses these three separate buildings together and will transform them into a modern workplace for the employees of Dallas County while still retaining the historic significance for those who visit and work there.
The preservation and renovation celebrates the historic landmark's distinctive architecture, while modernizing it for efficiency. With skill and a respectful approach to save the character, the design exposes interior elements, integrates modern and historic, and keeps a visual connection between new and old.
Given the historic significance of the buildings and the role they played as the backdrop of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, it was important to maintain the character and appearance of the building as it was during that time frame. The building complex is located within the City of Dallas' West End Historic District, and the City of Dallas Landmark Commission must review and approve any changes to the building exterior prior to obtaining a building permit. Due to its designation as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark (RTHL) and inclusion in the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark (NHL), Texas Historical Commission also reviews planned changes to the buildings' exterior.
The design focuses on preserving the architectural integrity of the buildings' exterior to this 1963 period of significance with important elements such as the 1950s aluminum window frames and sashes restored while upgrading the single-pane window sashes to insulated glass for improved efficiency and comfort. The anchorage systems for the Indiana limestone veneer will be secured, and the historic terra cotta detailing refurbished as part of the building's exterior preservation.
This comprehensive process preserves and enhances not only the building's facades but also several important public spaces that retain their historic character and will be restored to their 1915 appearance. A whites only sign associated with a public drinking fountain was uncovered ten years ago and has been saved. Instead of erasing its history, this sign will be retained, artistically interpreted as an interactive public artifact in the complex's new lobby space.
The grandest of spaces, the lobby and the second floor of the 1915 Criminal Courts Building, will be restored to its former glory. Layers of paint will be removed from the white marble walls and the grand marble staircase, intricate tile flooring, and ornate plaster ceilings will be restored. The staircase leads to two courtrooms, both rich in history. Sarah T. Hughes presided over Texas's Fourteenth District Court in Dallas, becoming the first woman to preside over a state district court. Her courtroom was in the Records Building and later the Annex. Judge Hughes is most famously known for swearing in Lyndon B Johnson as president aboard Air Force One, but she was also a pioneer for improving social conditions, including humane jail conditions—her championing of this led to the eventual closure of the jail in the Criminal Courts building.
The restoration and modernization of these historic buildings on the site where Dallas County was founded in 1846, reflects the County's commitment not only to recognizing the past but moving forward with the future.
As one of the first government projects registered for WELL Certification in the United States, Dallas County is pioneering a new type of workplace that emphasizes wellbeing and encourages a healthy lifestyle.
Targeting LEED Gold and WELL Silver, these programs highlight Dallas County's commitment to the community by demonstrating their stewardship to both the county taxpayers as well as their employees. The programs create a healthy environment for employees while also providing a workspace that functions significantly better than before. The result is a healthier work environment that boosts productivity, decreases absenteeism, and increases attraction and retention of talent.
A new fitness center—occupying a partially subterranean and previously underutilized space—is available to all county employees, regardless if they work in the building or not. This helps encourage a healthier lifestyle and is a relatively low-cost benefit outside of salary incentives. Elevated food offerings in the new café are healthier and focus on fresh produce and a reduction in processed foods.
One of the major design drivers is offering equal access to daylight to create a healthier work environment. With an older building façade style featuring punched window openings instead of more modern ribbon windows, moving perimeter and corner offices to the core of the building became more important. This game changer greatly improves the amount of daylight that reaches the interior workspaces. Daylight harvesting strategies reduce electricity consumption and lighting is designed to not disrupt our natural circadian rhythm.
LEED strategies include focusing on the sustainability of the site, water and energy efficiency, materials and resource reuse and recycling, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design. Highlights include:
- Sustainable Sites: take advantage of development density, community connectivity, and nearby public transportation options; bike racks and changing rooms to encourage alternative transportation; use white roof membrane to reduce heat island effect
- Water Efficiency: use water efficient landscaping; reduce water consumption by at least 30%
- Energy and Atmosphere: improve building energy performance by 18%; implement enhanced commissioning to optimize energy use and reduce operating costs; buying green power
- Materials and Resources: reuse 55% of existing building materials; recycle or salvage at least 75% of construction waste; use recycled and regional materials
- Indoor Environmental Quality: Specify low-emitting materials; provide lighting controls; ensure the thermal comfort of occupants
- Innovation in Design: exceed the required number of bus routes and covered parking; implement green cleaning program; provide green education moments throughout the space
WELL strategies focus on more than just sustainable design and encourage operational and behavioral changes to enhance the health and happiness of the people who use the space. Highlights include:
- Air: specify low VOC paints, finishes, and furniture; enact no-smoking policy; provide better air ventilation and filtration systems
- Nourishment: offer healthier food options, portion control; prominently display fresh fruits and vegetables; reduce processed foods; create new messaging to promote healthy eating
- Light: provide lighting that doesn't disrupt the natural circadian rhythm
- Fitness: provide access to the new on-site fitness center; activate and encourage the use of internal stairwells with use of graphics, colors, and patterns
- Comfort: provide ergonomic workstations, make available sit-to-stand workstations; minimize sound disturbances with proper acoustical solutions
- Mind: integrate art, history, and sense of place; celebrate the culture, spirit, and historical significance of the building with meaningful art integration; incorporate biophilia graphics in stairwells
The implementation of these sustainable strategies not only creates a healthier environment for county employees but also helps reach the larger goal of revitalizing a historically significant building to let it thrive for years to come.
TOUR LEADER: Brian Nicodemus, AIA, Gensler
With two decades of experience specializing in county, municipal, regional, and civic facilities within Dallas/Fort Worth and the greater U.S., Brian is a successful consensus‐builder. Highly experienced in coordinating seamlessly amongst multiple stakeholders on complex government and community projects, he excels in creating a collaborative working environment in which all parties feel their voices are heard. Brian has a rare gift of finding common ground amongst various viewpoints, and ensuring that every stakeholder has fully participated in the final outcome of a project. His passion for civic and community work is driven by a desire to give back to the public officials who sacrifice to serve their community. An award‐winning architect skilled at balancing budgets and managing complex teams, Brian’s greatest passion is to serve those who serve others.
A hard hat tour of this project was held in November, 2019. Come see how it turned out!