Federal courthouse overhaul is model of sustainability
A $66 million overhaul to upgrade the energy efficiency of the 1905 federal courthouse in Indianapolis is being hailed as a model of sustainability.
It takes a certain humility to design modern mechanical systems for historic buildings, especially architectural blockbusters like the 1905 Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Indianapolis. The goal of such installations is “that you won’t be able to tell what we have done,” says Matthew Chalifoux, principal at EYP Architecture and Engineering of Albany, New York, one of the firms engaged in a recently completed $66 million overhaul of the landmark.
Constructed as the United States Courthouse and Post Office, the National Register-listed building was designed by Philadelphia architects John Hall Rankin and Thomas W. Kellogg, a Beaux Arts Indiana limestone-clad edifice occupying an entire city block. Inside, splendid ornamentation greets the eye at every turn: marble, hand-laid mosaic tiles, decorative plasterwork and murals, and stunning semicircular cantilevered staircases under art-glass domes.
Funding from The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 paid for the refurbishment, which wins high marks as a model of sustainability. Over the course of almost three years, crews from 12 firms replaced the building’s roof, heating and air conditioning, and fire and life safety systems. Workers rehabbed original windows, adding interior storms for increased energy efficiency, and restored several original murals.
Working closely with the primary contractor Shiel Sexton Construction of Indianapolis, Chalifoux’s team integrated the new systems without compromising the building’s architectural features. They made sprinkler heads minimally visible and replaced 1960s metal air diffusers with exact copies of an existing original. Workers removed and relocated unsightly bulkheads for air handling and uncovered windows, restoring the grand halls to their original appearance.
A new 30,000 square-foot “green” vegetative roof surface provides the annual oxygen equivalent of 18 trees and includes a rain-harvesting system that feeds into tanks supplying water for the building’s toilet systems. The project achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver status.
Today, the courthouse serves as the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana. Though access to the building is limited, you can read more about it at the website of the U.S. General Services Administration.
Read more about the restoration at IndianaLawyer.com.