On February 28, 2001, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake shook the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle, Washington. The Nisqually Earthquake, one of the largest in Washington state history, lasted 40 seconds and caused extensive damage to the historic building. More than $8 million of repairs were needed to resolve the most pressing problems caused by the temblor, and an $86 million seismic retrofit followed these initial repairs. The courthouse remained open for business throughout the duration of these construction projects.
Maintaining “business as usual” in a courthouse while major construction takes place presents a unique set of logistical and programmatic challenges. During the retrofit, courtrooms, judicial officers, and employees were forced to relocate multiple times as individual floors were taken off-line and seismic stabilization infrastructure was installed. However, the details of construction are not the subject of this article. Instead, we focus on “lessons learned” through our response to the earthquake.