New United States Courthouse - Los Angeles

Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Owner: General Services Administration (GSA)

Location: Los Angeles

Project site: Brownfield

Building program type(s): Courthouse

The New United States Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles is a 10-story, 633,000-square-foot building that contains 24 courtrooms and 32 judicial chambers. It houses the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California, accommodates the U.S. Marshals Service, and provides trial preparation space for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Federal Public Defender. Sustainability was a driving factor in the courthouse design from the beginning. It achieved LEED® Platinum certification, meets the GSA’s 2020 energy objective, and incorporates sustainable design features including a rooftop photovoltaic array and pleated façade that reduces the building’s annual radiation and central plant loads.

"We were impressed with the quality of the calm, light-filled interior spaces for occupants who are often in the courthouse under difficult circumstances." ~ Jury statement

Sustainability was a driving factor for the courthouse from the beginning. It has achieved LEED® Platinum certification and meets the client’s 2020 energy objective. The building incorporates a variety of sustainable design features, including a rooftop photovoltaic array that is intended to generate 507,000 kWh of renewable energy on an annual basis. Image: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (diagram); David Lena (photo)

The Los Angeles Federal Courthouse is a 633,000 Sq Ft facility for the General Services Administration located in downtown Los Angeles. The program includes 24 courtrooms, 32 judicial chambers and offices for the US Central District Courts of California, US Marshals Service, US Attorneys, Federal Protective Services, Federal Public Defender and the GSA. The project goals were established during the competition phase and included architectural excellence, timeless design, high sustainability, beautiful durable finishes, highly functional reliable systems, efficient layout of spaces, and bringing best value to the taxpayer. The client requirements mandated meeting the GSA 2020 energy target of 35 EUI to be verified through actual performance during the first year of operations. Decisions made by the project team addressed these objectives throughout the design process. To achieve an iconic civic identity, the building uses traditional architectural elements such as processional steps, grand public spaces and enduring natural materials. The cubic massing provides a clear identifiable form that strengthens the Civic Center core. The compact volume provides an efficient exterior wall to floor area ratio with the interior central light court acting as an organizational feature for optimizing circulation and wayfinding for the project’s complex program. Both passive and active sustainable strategies informed the design from the inception. Features include site orientation, massing optimization, responsive façade design, onsite photovoltaic power generation, displacement air delivery systems, radiant hydronic systems, dimming controls, demand control ventilation systems, water harvesting and extensive use of daylighting systems. Raising the cubic volume above the street level created a civic entry plaza allowing both visual and physical connections to the broader context of the Los Angeles Civic Center including the art deco inspired 1928 LA City Hall at its core. The ground plane design reinforces both pedestrian and public transportation networks while addressing the site topography.

"The innovative façade system is an elegant technical invention to harvest light and reflect heat. The resulting form distinguishes the building from its surroundings appropriately for such an important civic building." ~ Jury statement

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2016

Year of substantial project completion: 2016

Gross conditioned floor area: 515,862 sq ft

Gross unconditioned floor area: 117,138 sq ft

Number of stories: 10

Project Climate Zone: ASHRAE 3B

Annual hours of operation: 2,400

Site area: 138,447 sq ft

Project site context/setting: urban

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $326 million

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 205,440

Project Team

Accessibility: AA Architecture, Interior Planning & Design

Acoustics: Newson Brown Acoustics

Blast Consulting: Applied Research Associates  

Courts Planning: AECOM

Engineer - Civil: PSOMAS  

Engineer - MEP: Syska Hennessey Group

Engineer - Plumbing: South Coast Engineering Group  

Engineer - Structural: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP  

Fire/Life Safety: Jensen Hughes

General Contractor: Clark Construction Group, LLC

Graphics: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Interior Design: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP  

Landscape: Mia Lehrer + Associates

LEED® Consulting: AECOM  

Lighting: Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design

Photography: Bruce Damonte, David Lena

Security: AECOM  

Signage: Page/Dyal  

Vertical Transportation: Lerch Bates Inc  

Third party rating systems

LEED: Platinum


Michelle Addington, Dean, School of Architecture, The University of Texas Austin, Austin, Texas

Jennifer Devlin-Herbert, FAIA, EHDD. San Francisco

Kevin Schorn, AIA, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, New York

Julie V. Snow, FAIA, Snow Kreilich, Minneapolis

M. Susan Ubbelohde, LOISOS + UBBELOHDE, Alameda, California

Jury comments

The jury was impressed with the quality of the calm, light-filled interior spaces for occupants who are often in the courthouse under difficult circumstances. In this urban project, the design team delivered mostly day-lit spaces in spite of climate and security demands that typically result in more opaque building envelopes and a highly complex program.

The displacement ventilation systems were carefully designed and result in a high level of comfort with relatively low energy input. The measured EUI of 31 is 54 percent below national benchmarks for this building type and will be further reduced once the PV array is installed. The innovative façade system is an elegant technical invention to harvest light and reflect heat. The resulting form distinguishes the building from its surroundings appropriately for such an important civic building.

The composite concrete and steel structural design innovatively lifts the courthouse to hover above the site, reducing the carbon footprint and allowing the civic plaza to flow around and below the courthouse while providing required security setbacks. This new civic space gives voice to our democratic ideals of free and open speech.

Image credits


Bruce Damonte


Bruce Damonte


Bruce Damonte


Bruce Damonte


Bruce Damonte


Bruce Damonte (left), David Lena (right)


David Lena


Bruce Damonte