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The Building Justice Project

Through the Building Justice Project, the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law is designing and constructing its first new law school building in fifty years. The new facility will allow us to build on our past excellence and improve dramatically our ability to educate lawyers and leaders for the Twenty First Century; to produce cutting edge scholarship to address the most critical issues facing the state of Utah, the nation, and the world; and to provide important service to our community.

On this website, we are proud to release the results of our nearly completed design process. The following images, while still under development, depict designs that integrate the essential components of a traditional law school facility with exciting innovations in building and educational design.

Building on Existing Excellence

A Superior Student Experience

Through its superb teaching faculty, the College of Law combines classroom education with a wide range of clinical and other skills training opportunities. Every student who wants to graduate with hands-on experience has multiple opportunities to do so, and most of our students take advantage of those opportunities to prepare themselves for their future careers.

While addressing and seeking solutions to stubborn societal problems, the College of Law has pioneered a wide range of service learning and other cutting-edge opportunities: In 2012-2013, students contributed almost 50,000 hours of formal public service through clinical, pro bono and think tank placements. Beyond meeting local community needs for legal services, students at the College of Law interned at the United Nations, presented at major academic conferences, contributed to the drafting of appellate and Supreme Court arguments, and posted articles on prestigious international law blogs.

The College of Law has also developed an innovative immersive simulation exercise, in which students role-play as government officials to develop critical decision-making skills that will prove invaluable in the professional arena.

To align faculty expertise with student interests and leverage our strengths, the College of Law has recently created new centers in Biomedical Sciences and Law, Global Justice, Criminal Justice, and Innovation in Legal Education. The new centers join the existing Wallace Stegner Center, which is widely recognized for its environmental and natural resources programs and events.

Innovation, Value and Transparency

In 2012, the College of Law was ranked among the top 20 Most Innovative law schools and the top 20 Best Value law schools by the National Jurist magazine. Of the top 50 schools in the 2014 U.S. News and World Report rankings, the College of Law had the fourth lowest in-state tuition.

The organization LawSchoolTransparency.com also ranked us as one of the top twenty most transparent law schools for the data we publish about our students’ career placement record. The College was the only school in the country to make the top twenty in all three rankings.

We are proud to offer one of the most affordable programs in the country. The College of Law ranked 28th in the nation this past year among ABA-accredited law schools in long-term, full-time JD-required employment and recorded the 35th-lowest average student debt. A record 76% of our incoming class for the 2012-2013 academic year received financial assistance through scholarships. Read more about the College of Law's rankings of "Best Value" and "Most Innovative", "Forbes Top 25", and the 2014 U.S. News Law School Rankings.

Inadequacies of Our Current Facility

The College of Law has made advances on many fronts by admitting highly qualified candidates, providing extraordinary support for students, hiring world-class faculty, contributing record levels of student service learning, and turning in superior performances in national competitions. But the physical facility, which the College of Law has occupied since 1963, has lagged far behind and has been for some time an impediment to even greater accomplishments and innovations in legal education.

The following quotes, taken from the American Bar Association’s (ABA) accreditation reviews in 2001 and 2009, reflect the reality of the current building:

But we did not need the ABA to tell us this. Students and faculty have long endured a decrepit HVAC system, cramped study space, and a dearth of useful meeting, office, and classroom facilities. More important, we lack the space and modern technological facilities needed to expand and improve our focus on modern skills training, and to allow our existing and new centers of excellence to thrive. We also want to provide our students, faculty, staff and guests with the most accessible and sustainable facility possible, consistent with our longstanding commitment to those important values.

In short, the current building is no longer adequate to meet programmatic and student needs.

A New Building as Innovative as the Programs it Houses

The Utah Legislature approved a new, 155,000 gross-square-foot building to replace the College of Law’s current 98,000 gross-square-foot facility. The new building will immediately improve the learning environment for College of Law students. To cite just two relevant statistics, student space will jump from 7 square feet to 60 square feet outside of class, and from 18 to 30 square feet inside the classroom.

The building’s vision incorporates:

Benefits of the Building

From its iconic location on the southwest corner of the University of Utah campus, the new College of Law building will welcome the community with universal accessibility that exceeds national ADA standards and minimizes physical and educational limitations.

Other welcoming features include a café and coffee shop to serve the university and the greater community, a 450-seat conference center that will fill critical unmet need for a medium-size venue on campus and will be open for outside conferences, and numerous sustainable design strategies, from south-facing solar screening to a naturally ventilated atrium and the use of low-emissivity, insulated glass in the windows throughout.

After six years of intensive planning, meetings with various internal and external constituencies, and numerous revisions, the College of Law is justifiably excited about the new facility. We truly believe it is as innovative as the programs it will house.

But despite all of the building’s many innovations, our commitments remain constant. The new building will facilitate the College of Law’s ongoing objectives and advance the College’s efforts in the areas of research, training and service:

Universal Design and Accommodation

The College of Law is uniquely dedicated to a fully universal architecture design: one that fully and seamlessly accommodates a range of disabilities (from physical disabilities from spinal cord injury to the cognitive challenges of Vets with PTSD). Our objective is to facilitate a full, rich, engaged experience for each person who enters the building. To achieve this goal, the building features gradual inclines, enhanced acoustics, clear sight lines and soft colors, and universal accessibility.

Sustainable Design

The new College of Law intends to build an affordable but highly sustainable facility that will save energy and water, use safe and recycled materials, and encourage environmentally responsible behavior. These goals are consistent with our longstanding commitment to environmental and natural resources stewardship, but will also result in long-term savings in building operation and maintenance. To meet these goals, we have incorporated the following sustainable elements into the site and building design:

The building will also incorporate passive energy strategies that reduce overall energy consumption through the performance of the building itself:

In addition, the building will also achieve energy savings through the integration of more efficient energy-using systems:

Finally, the building will make use of sustainable material acquisition, which includes designing and installing materials that are more sustainable through material re-use, the integration of recycled materials and the reduction of toxic ingredients used in the building materials.

One common program used to measure building sustainability is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based program that provides third-party verification of green buildings. In addition, we designed the building to meet the University’s ambitious goal for all new buildings to achieve a 40% net reduction in energy costs. By meeting the above goals in a cost-effective way, as well as the University’s energy reduction target, this building should be eligible for LEED Platinum status, which would make it among the first LEED Platinum law school buildings in the country.