During scandalous occasions, it has been said that technology has had a run in with the law.
But at St. Louis University, the opposite occurred: the law had a run in with technology.
St. Louis University (SLU) built a new, 12-story academic building to teach students law digitally. The building includes classrooms, conference room, courtrooms and digital signage on each floor.
Nathan Burge, Multimedia Architect at SLU, says one of the main goals of the new building focused on having a multi-functional courtroom space to teach law students.
“It needed to be a typical trial court room with a jury box and judge…so they could mimic what happens in an actual courthouse,” he said. “It also needed to function as a lecture hall space for the law school and the largest room in the building needed to accommodate years’ worth of classes.”
Burge also says the old classroom space that law students used was over 15 years old and too small.
“When moving from the old building to the new building, they’re going through a significant upgrade from the old court room space to the new court room space,” he says.
Burge says the new courtroom space features 12 foot tall windows, increased projection brightness and Crestron’s DigitalMedia control system touch panels, which were integrated by TSI Technology Solutions.
He says that Crestron solutions were also used in the old space.
“Having used the product for many years, we knew the strengths of the product, how reliable it was,” Burge says. “It’s a high-profile space so it has to work when it’s being used. From a technical standpoint, it gives us a lot of back-end tools to see what’s going on in the room, if we have to diagnose any function problems, and if there are any problems to get the room back up and running quickly.”
Bill Strupp, Education Market Development Manager at Crestron says that even though the new building is remote from the main campus, Crestron still offers in-depth support if needed.
“Our fusion server, which is our management server, really helps to remotely manage and support those rooms,” he says. “So if there’s an issue beforehand without anybody turning the system on, the support team can know about that and correct it. [SLU] can also remotely control the room…just from a touch panel or mobile device.”
With the supported technology, the new law building provides more benefits for the school and opportunities for students.
Burge says the new space allows students to get a taste of real world law with actual trials, and feature guest lecturers for classes.
“They’ve had a couple court cases actually happen in the court space, which had enough seating capacity to accommodate those who wanted to view it,” he says. “They’ve used the court room for multiple legal conferences and events to expand the experience of the law students…They are able to bring in guest lecturers, they’re able to bring work with the federal court in St. Louis, which is just down the street.”
Craig Williams, Manager of Multimedia Services at SLU says the building’s broadcasting and video conferencing technology enabled law students to talk to students across the globe.
“During the first couple of months, one of the things they were using the court room for was communicating with a woman’s group in Afghanistan for giving legal counsel to women in Afghanistan,” he says.
Paul Murdick, President of TSI Technology says two of the building’s larger multimedia rooms feature a system to aid the hearing impaired. He says SLU was on the ball by keeping up with assistive technology.
“Two of the larger multimedia rooms have a hearing impaired system,” he says. “There’s an antenna loop under the carpet in the room. When a person walks in that is hearing impaired with a particular hearing aid, which is relatively new, it automatically is conductive to the solution in the floor, so they can automatically hear what’s coming out of the microphone.
[SLU has] seen the technology that’s coming down the pipe and what’s been made in the hearing aid world and it works really well.”
Advice from the experts: How to plan for your own law building
Work with the good guys
Strupp says if a college wants to build its own law building, it should find the best integrator that will support its vision.
“The best thing is to allot yourself with a good integrator that can properly install and support that system,” he says. “That always seems to be a key.”
Engage with your technology provider
Strupp says providers like Crestron are happy to work with a college, especially when it comes to supporting their systems. He says collaborating with a provider will help a college make the most of the technology’s design and structure, boost knowledge on the system and plan for the new space’s future.
“Many can engage directly with Crestron or other design consultants for some design ideas,” he says. “Ultimately, in gaining all this knowledge ahead of time and understanding the capabilities of the systems will help the school understand what its need to ask for and what its capabilities would be.”
See what everyone else is doing
Wiliams says colleges looking to construct a building similar to SLU’s should visit other courtrooms and colleges to see what they’ve got for designs, technology and support.
That way, a college can decide which solution will work best for them, and what they need to weed out.
“During the planning phases of the building, I was actually able to visit Northwestern and other law schools in the Chicago area,” he says. “I looked to see what they had done to plan for our facility. That helped us during our design phase as well.”
Have a well-rounded system
Murdick says that colleges should consider have a single system with well-rounded features, like SLU’s. Having such a system will enable one department to utilize it for multiple purposes (rather than having a single-function system taken over by multiple departments), which keeps system management easy and under control.
“The model that SLU has is well rounded and well-designed, so that they have one department that can charge the AV integration,” he says. “That is very far and few between in a lot of the universities I see because there are typically several entities that take ownership over it and the standardization is very poor. SLU is outstanding.”