New United States Courthouse – Los Angeles – Sustainable Design

Having achieved LEED® Platinum certification and met the GSA’s 2020 energy target of 35kBTU/GSF annual consumption, the New United States Courthouse reflects a design driven by environmental performance. Sustainability is evident in every aspect of the project, from the drought-tolerant landscaping of its plaza to the rooftop photovoltaic array that is expected to generate 507,000 kWh each year.

The building’s pleated glass envelope uniquely embodies sustainability. SOM conceived the facade in response to the street grid of downtown Los Angeles, which is rotated 38 degrees from a true north–south axis. Because the courthouse aligns with the street grid, transparent panels in north- and south-facing pleats maximize daylight penetration, while opaque panels in east- and west-facing pleats minimize solar thermal gain. This strategy reduces central plant load by nine percent, while lending visual dimension and drama to the facade.

SOM optimized daylighting inside the courthouse, in turn, by locating major spaces like courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms at the building perimeter. In addition, each floor is organized around an open central volume whose monumental skylight delivers daylight into the heart of the building — and provides a second source of natural illumination for the courtrooms. This space includes strategically placed reflectors to enhance the presence of daylight.