Architectural Precast Cladding Project - Inverness Justice Centre

Inverness Justice Centre combines the honesty of an exposed in-situ structure with the civic dignity of a glistening precast colonnade.

Inverness Justice Centre combines the honesty of an exposed in-situ structure with the civic dignity of a glistening precast colonnade.

Few buildings have quite so many roles to play as the new Inverness Justice Centre. It is the first of its kind in Scotland – a new bringing together of criminal and civil courts with a range of related functions including citizens advice, women’s aid, victim support and social services. But it is also something of a frontier project, the first of a different type of development in an area of north Inverness.

“The planners are keen for the city to develop in this direction, and the Justice Centre is very much part of that plan,” explains Neil Gillespie, director of architect Reiach and Hall. “So the design had to help open up the area to encourage new investment. Because of this, and because it is an important civic building with a serious purpose, the design needed a certain gravitas.”

Architectural Precast Cladding - Plean Precast

For this, says Gillespie, concrete was a natural choice: “Scotland is predominantly stone built, especially prestige buildings in cities. So unless you have a very generous budget, concrete is the material that can provide that minerality, weight, and a sense of permanence and civic dignity.” The Tall, white precast concrete pillars punctuate the rain-screen of the front facade, and continue as free-standing columns supporting sheltering canopies at either end of the building.

The defining feature of the Inverness Justice Centre is its long front facade, comprising 30 precast concrete columns plus a further 19 similar free-standing precast columns that support canopies at either end of the building.

They give the centre an appearance which is unmistakably classical, imposing, yet unfussy and essentially modern. It is no surprise that it was named 2021 Public Building of the Year in the Scottish Design Awards

Those in the facade are not structural, being attached via a thermal break to slim, in-situ concrete columns behind them. Each of these is 250mm deep, chamfered at the edges, and 680mm wide where it meets the widest section of the precast pillars. different to that of the main building grid

There wasn’t really any need to have an in-situ column behind each of the precast ones which are arranged at 3m intervals. On the plainer rear facade they are every 6m. But it was easier and visually better for the interior in-situ facade columns to reflect the rhythm of the exterior precast.”

While it would have been possible to have the precast columns perform structurally, the hybrid column design naturally allowed for a thermal break between the two types of concrete, and also meant that the in-situ and precast contractors had the freedom to operate almost independently as far as the structure was concerned.”

While the free-standing precast units are square or rectangular in section, those in the facade are roughly triangular, 680mm x 350mm, arranged in a sawtooth pattern. They are made with Skye marble, a very white and reflective aggregate and because the facade columns are not flat to the facade but canted, first one way, then another, you get a pleasing light effect as they reflect the rays of the low sun.”

Complementing the white precast columns are matching pale precast cladding units over much of the nonglazed area of the facades. In addition, matching cast stone precast blocks, have been arranged to form a low perforated wall between the free-standing columns at one end of the building. The blocks are arranged with spaces between, so you can see through the wall and originally designed it with larger spaces, but the client asked to reduce the gaps to improve privacy for those inside the building.

This typified a key challenge: reconciling the tension between creating a place with some openness and transparency as to the functions inside – justice must be seen to be done – but at the same time ensuring the centre provided security and privacy for those who need it.”

Original article from Concrete Quarterly, winter 2021,

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Project Information


Date: 2020
Client: Scottish Courts and Tribunals Services
Architect: Reiach and Hall
Main contractor: Robertson Construction
Project Value: £24m

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