Sound mitigation needed soon at county courthouse
October 29, 2014
Construction is set to begin for the remodel of the Pitkin County Library in early 2015, but ironically, the building that requires quiet from its patrons may be too noisy for the Pitkin County Courthouse once the library construction starts.
During the past decade, a wave of new, sensitive recording devices are used to record hearings and trials at the courthouse. Because of the increased need for quiet, especially with the official recording devices, any consistent loud noises that bleed into the courtroom can be stopped by the court if it deems those noises are interfering with a trial itself.
"Even lawnmowers, leaf blowers and sirens from police vehicles all disturb the courts with background noise from the outside," said Jodi Smith, Pitkin County facilities project manager. "With the library construction set to begin in February or March of 2015, that triggered us to look at what we need to do with the courthouse windows. The building is 2-foot thick in the walls, so it's definitely not the structure. But the attic has some openings in it, and the windows are problematic. It's not only glass; there's some voids under the transoms, so that's how the noise is coming through."
Besides the library project, Pitkin County and the city of Aspen have several other construction projects starting in early 2015. Those include the Galena Plaza work next to the library and a new sewer-line installation on the west side of the courthouse.
The court, the county and the city have managed to work together on past noise impacts by working around the court schedules; however, that will not be possible with the upcoming larger construction projects.
"Time is of the essence," Smith said. "If there's too much noise in the courtroom, they'll shut down the construction projects, and that could be very expensive."
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The county is working with a professional consulting firm to solve the noise mitigation for the historic courthouse and is now focusing on windows and the attic.
The courthouse has 152 windows total but will work to replace about 60 windows that mainly border the western and northern portions of the building.
Smith said there was already $150,000 set aside in the 2015 county budget, and she asked the commissioners to consider budgeting another $150,000 out of the capital fund balance to allow the project to commence as soon as possible. The commissioners approved the additional funding request.
"We're looking at $300,000 just for the 2014-15 projects, and that doesn't include working on the front of the building," Smith said. "If we have enough money, we'll do the front, but if not, we'll leave it as is. What we're looking to do is get the sound-mitigation work started as soon as possible to avoid any noise conflicts next year."
Smith said she's hoping the physical construction will begin by January.
Working on the courthouse, which is listed as a historic building, also means following strict historic-preservation guidelines to repair the windows. Smith said that sometime in the 1980s, many of the courthouse windows were replaced with aluminum framing, and now the historic guidelines require them to put wooden frames back in to restore it as close to its original building as possible.
"None of the windows are standard size," Smith said. "We're going to need some custom fitting done."
On top of the window replacements, work needs to be done to address the attic insulation, where gaps allow noise to bleed into the building.
Several of the commissioners asked that the new windows be as energy-efficient as possible, which Smith said was already part of the plan. She also said that some of the costs for the window project would be offset with funds from the library and the city of Aspen for the Galena Plaza work.
"We've had some discussions but haven't gotten to the dollar figures yet," Smith said.