Design with empathy, innovation, and efficiency

Clackamas County Courthouse P3 Design Competition

Clackamas County

In a competition to design a new courthouse for Clackamas County, Oregon, we sought to improve public perception of justice infrastructure while showcasing mass timber. Partnered with a multidisciplinary team that included Plenary, HOK, Andersen Construction, and Gilbane Construction, SRG engaged in deep collaboration to develop an all-wood structure that offered a warm and inviting community amenity, celebrating the County’s and region’s leadership in engineered wood and forest management.

  • P3 Developer

    Plenary Group

  • Architecture, Interior Design, Courts Planning

    HOK & SRG

  • Builder, Joint Venture

    Andersen Construction & Gilbane Construction

  • Landscape Architecture


  • Civil Engineering


  • Wood Sourcing

    Sustainable Northwest

  • Structural


  • MEP


Prioritizing Mass Timber

Clackamas County Courthouse was to be the first mass timber courthouse in the world, innovative and efficient in its structural strategy while still authentic to the tradition of wood architecture in the Pacific Northwest. The project team prioritized the use of mass timber from the outset of design, proposing an all-wood structure erected with 100% Oregon-fabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT) decking and glulam framing, utilizing wood fiber that was to be 100% sourced from working forests in Clackamas County.

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Structural Optimization

The design featured composite decking, including 3-ply CLT with a concrete topping slab that hosted structural reinforcing as well as electrical conduit and radiant flooring systems. Floor plates were calibrated to optimize production output and minimize offcut waste. Glulam beams and columns were similarly calibrated to take advantage of layup efficiencies without compromising structural performance, fire ratings, or operational demands. The design team configured the mass timber frame to minimize conflict with the complexities of air distribution systems as well as operational needs of the courthouse typology.

Trauma‑Informed Design

The design respected the full range of human experiences and emotions that can occur in a courthouse, and mass timber played a central role in the design team’s attention to trauma-informed design. In all spaces, exposed mass timber would bring natural tones and textures to elicit a biophilic emotional response, which has been shown to ease stress, enhance focus, and improve psychological health. By celebrating the warmth and beauty of a wood structural system, trauma related to judicial proceedings could be lessened.

Environmental Stewardship

Wood sourced from responsibly managed forests within Clackamas County would protect forest health and biodiversity while also mitigating wildfire threats. The courthouse was to be the direct and visible product of the local economy, infusing Clackamas County’s labor economy with new opportunities in forestry, milling, and mass timber installation.

Over 3,400 m3 of CLT and glulam were proposed for the project, a 185% reduction of embodied carbon compared to a traditional steel and concrete structure. Nearly, 2.5 million kgCO2e (biogenic carbon) would be sequestered within the structure, the equivalent of offsetting over 5 million miles worth of greenhouse gas emissions from an average automobile.

Additional sustainable attributes include:

  • Reducing peak energy demands
  • Rainscreen façade system
  • Solar orientation and massing strategies
  • High-performance envelope solutions
  • Natural daylighting
  • Renewable energy from photovoltaics
  • Native plantings
  • Stormwater swales
  • Wetland and riparian corridors
  • Biking amenities and walking path connections to public transport

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Partnership is central to SRG’s practice. Work on the Clackamas County Courthouse design was a unique opportunity to collaborate with engineers, designers, builders, manufacturers, forestry consultants, maintenance teams, and development financers across the region. This diverse range of perspectives and expertise enabled our team to make informed decisions early in the design process leading to stronger efficiencies in downstream sourcing, fabrication, and installation – without sacrificing quality.