Monday LEEDoff: Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse, 40 Centre Street

Beyer Blinder Belle’s Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse rehabilitation project at 40 Centre Street checks in at #19 in New York Construction’s 2006-07 Top Projects Started list. (I recently wrote about another Beyer Blinder Belle LEED project, which the firm designed with Jean Nouvel at 100 Eleventh Avenue). Led by construction manager Bovis with general contractor [...]

Beyer Blinder Belle’s Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse rehabilitation project at 40 Centre Street checks in at #19 in New York Construction’s 2006-07 Top Projects Started list. (I recently wrote about another Beyer Blinder Belle LEED project, which the firm designed with Jean Nouvel at 100 Eleventh Avenue). Led by construction manager Bovis with general contractor Cauldwell Wingate and mechanical engineer Flack + Kurtz, the $230 million Courthouse effort is aiming for a LEED Certified rating and should wrap up in November of 2010.

The 33-story, 720,000 square foot tower is home to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and offices for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. It dates from 1933 and was designed by Cass Gilbert, but upgrades to major building systems haven’t occurred for over forty years. Interestingly, because the Courthouse is a designated New York City landmark and also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the project team was able to locate its original shop drawings and blueprints at the New York Historical Society, as well as Gilbert’s original drawings for the structure, all of which assisted the project team as it went about designing new building systems.

The scope of the project contemplates replacing every building system- from electrical to HVAC to plumbing- as well as exterior restoration work on the Courthouse roof. Other restoration work on the interior involves cleaning stone and bronze architectural elements and repairing various windows and ceilings. Green design elements include a syphonic roof drainage system, which removes water from the tower’s roof at a high speed using a vacuum (reducing the number of necessary drains) as well as responsible materials selection and measures to improve indoor air quality. And, of course, the fact that the structure is being renovated- rather than razed and rebuilt- is critically sustainable itself. The project may also involve a green roof on top of the six-story Courthouse base (see the image to the left), provided that funds remain available.

Renovating any existing building- but particularly as historic and dated a building as the Courthouse- requires close cooperation among a project team as it encounters aging infrastructure that- in the Courthouse’s case- is no longer compliant with the building code. Adding an integrated, green design approach on top of that initial complexity only serves to make a project even more challenging, so it will be instructive to observe the Courthouse project as it progresses over the course of the next two years.

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