Winchester-Frederick County Joint Judicial Center

Winchester, Virginia

A new, stand-alone 911 facility to serve Frederick County, Virginia. The facility’s primary function is to house emergency operations dispatchers and staff; its secondary function is to serve as headquarters for County administrators and fire and rescue personnel, in the event of a disaster. The stand-alone facility’s generator and mechanical/electrical/plumbing systems are to operate independently of the building.

This new 911 Center and emergency headquarters is located in the windowless basement of a municipal judicial center. The 911 Center operates twenty- four hours a day, based on three shifts, and is open every day of the year. The dispatchers spend their shifts in front of switchboards and multiple computer monitors, prepared to handle intense emergency phone calls in a calm and levelheaded manner. Because the job is a stressful one with a high turn- over rate, administrators wanted the center to have a tranquil atmosphere to help offset the job’s intensity. We thought the facility should be visually interesting, to compensate for its lack of windows, with a high- tech aesthetic to reflect its state-of-the-art computer equipment.

The existing basement had many limiting parameters. A low existing ceiling was made even lower with the installation of a new, raised- access floor in the communications room. Height was also compromised by new and existing mechanical ducts, water and sprinkler piping, storm sewer drains, sewer ejector pumps, and electrical conduit. The design kept the ceilings open in as many areas as possible, rather than lowering them with dropped ceilings. The exposed steel floor deck and exposed mechanical/ electrical/ plumbing systems give the facility an industrial aesthetic. Sheets of perforated aluminum were used to partially veil the overhead conduit, while still providing physical access.

For budget purposes, most of the architectural efforts were concentrated in the central dispatch communications room, which is the heart of the 911 center’s around-the-clock operations. The exposed ceiling in this room is further punctuated with fabric acoustic panels and long tubular lights, both of which are suspended at irregular angles. The lighting tubes are set on individual dimmers since the dispatchers prefer working in near-twilight conditions to reduce monitor glare. The communications room had to be acoustically isolated from the rest of the center, which was accomplished with the hung fabric panels and an interior wall that separates it from the hallway. This interior wall consists of faceted sheets of glass fractured by vertical fins. The wall allows the dispatchers in the isolated communications room visual relief; they can see activity in the hall, and supervising staff can see them to offer back-up dispatching assistance.


  • Builder: H & W Construction, Inc., Winchester, Virginia
  • Structural Engineer: Structural Concepts, Inc., Winchester, Virginia
  • Mechanical Engineer: Dwyer Engineering, Leesburg, Virginia
  • Photographer: Hoachlander Davis Photography, Washington, D.C.