The Technology and Construction Court is an increasingly valuable resource and area of expertise. Its new home reflects this and helps it perform on the world stage
The Technology and Construction Court has just moved in to completely new premises: the Rolls Building, in Fetter Lane, London EC4, just 100m away from its old premises at St Dunstan’s House. The Rolls Building has been designed and built specifically to accommodate a number of specialist courts including the TCC.
The TCC has come a long way since the first specialist construction judges, then called “official referees (OR)”, came into being in the 1870s. They were accommodated in the then spanking new Royal Court of Justice on the Strand, which for some still retains its gothic Victorian chic. However, by the sixties they were relegated to three or four small rooms in what became known as the “ORs’ corridor” - miles away from everyone else. A new dawn broke in 1988 when the ORs moved to St Dunstan’s, which had been built for the court service in 1979. The ORs grew in number from five to eight and the court became known as the TCC in 1998. Although
St Dunstan’s was a great improvement over the ORs’ corridor, it has become tired in appearance and in functionality.
The new Rolls building will provide a national and international focus on the expertise in the TCC, commercial and chancery fields of work
It was resolved some years ago that it would make sense for the courts that primarily specialised in business disputes - the TCC, the commercial court and the chancery division - to be accommodated together in a new building. So it was that the idea for the Rolls Building was born. The developers were Delancey and Invista, the architect Woods Bagot, the structural engineer Bunyan Meyer, the services engineer Faber Maunsell and the contractor Carillion. Practical completion occurred in mid-July 2011; the TCC judges are in the building and the court is now operational.
The new building, fit for the 21st century, has 31 court rooms, including three “super courts” to handle the very largest international and national high value disputes and four courts configured in “landscape” format for multi-party cases. Additionally there are 55 consultation rooms. There will be in-court facilities for parties to use their own IT, including electronic presentation of evidence and cabled broadband as well as in-court video conferencing facilities and full wi-fi connectivity throughout the building. The super courts will be particularly useful for the TCC’s very large, multi-party cases, where there can be five or six parties with their legal teams, not to mention the public who attend the higher profile cases.
The move to the Rolls Building will dovetail in with improvements to the courts’ electronic systems, with a new electronic listing and filing system due to come on-stream within a few months. Parties and their advisers will be able to issue proceedings online and file court documents electronically. This should introduce greater efficiencies as well as save some of the forests; the judge and the parties should then be able to have their laptops in court connected to the systems so that the court file can simply be looked at on-screen.
One other great advantage is its location within the City of London, with every type of specialist solicitor, barrister and expert within two miles of the court. There has been a significant increase in the amount of international work within the TCC not only involving foreign parties but also projects as far away as New Zealand, Africa and the Far East. For this work, clients will often seek to use legal teams and experts from the City of London, albeit not always. This has been recognised by the Lord Mayor of London and CityUK who have voluntarily been promoting London and the Rolls Building.
Inevitably, the question will be raised as to whether the country needs a large new court complex when magistrates’ courts are being shut as part of the cuts. However, the new Rolls Building will provide a national and international focus on the expertise, both professional and judicial, in the TCC and commercial and chancery fields of work - expertise that is a significant contributor to the GDP of the UK. Also, the Rolls Building will free up much-needed space in the Royal Courts.
It is anticipated that the move to the Rolls Building will consolidate and enhance the growing reputation of the TCC, which in London will be an entirely High Court judge court by the end of spring 2012. This reflects the importance to the country of the construction and technology sector and the need for experienced specialist judges to deal with the inevitable disputes that arise.