Syska, SOM, and Clark Construction Group won a design-build competition for the General Services Administration’s (GSA’s) federal courthouse project in Los Angeles. The new 625,000-square-foot courthouse encompasses 24 courtrooms, 32 judicial chambers, two levels of below-grade parking, and mechanical and back-of-house spaces. Our responsibilities included BIM/Revit and MEP services.
After the project began, the GSA suggested a new regional target of energy use intensity (EUI) at 35kBtu per square foot per year. (The average EUI of courthouses across the U.S. is approximately 118 kBtu per square foot per year.)
We employed a faceted curtain-wall façade to maximize daylight and control the solar load. We also used a displacement ventilation system to increase energy efficiency. Other features included LED lighting design, daylight-responsive lighting controls, optimized cooling and heat generation through condensing boilers and high-efficiency centrifugal chillers, advanced irrigation and water-capture systems, and photovoltaics.
The GSA and U.S. Marshall Service have stringent guidelines for these areas.
To meet the required air-change rates, we implemented a “cascading ventilation” strategy. This method takes previously conditioned return air from the courtrooms, mixes it with tempered outside ventilation air, and then delivers the “cascaded” air to the holding rooms. For the main lobby, we chose a changeover radiant slab, using tubing installed in the concrete slab to deliver heating and cooling.
We had to prove that that the building met the energy use target.
We measured the actual energy performance of the building by collecting monthly energy bills and metering. Once a quarter, we would compare the design energy model with the validated energy model.
During its first year in operation, the courthouse’s validated EUI was an incredible 30.9 kBtu per square foot per year. The project has received LEED Platinum certification and a 2018 Top-10 award from the AIA Committee on the Environment. According to the GSA, the courthouse will “not only conserve critical resources and protect our environment, but also realize energy cost savings for years to come.”