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Historic Courthouse Wins Energy Contest

Monday, January 6, 2014

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Slashing $40,000 from its utility costs in one year, an 80-year-old U.S. Courthouse and former Post Office in Wichita, KS, has captured the 2013 Better Buildings Federal Award.

The General Services Administration-owned building cut its energy intensity consumed per gross square foot by 20 percent to win the competition hosted by the Energy Department.

The reduction saved $40,000 in utility costs over the 12-month competition period, the DOE announced Dec. 17.

U.S Courthouse in Wichita, KS
Images: General Services Administration

The U.S. Courthouse in Wichita, built in 1930-32, was recognized by the Energy Department for achieving the greatest percentage energy intensity savings for 2013.

The Better Buildings Federal Award challenges agencies to achieve the greatest reduction in annual energy intensity, or energy consumed per gross square foot.

The limestone courthouse beat out entries from other federal agencies, including the DOE, Air Force and State Department for the honor. Placing a close second, with a 15 percent reduction, was the Department of Army Picatinny Arsenal Building B65 in New Jersey.

The Winning Technique

To cut its energy consumption, GSA said it retuned the courthouse's control systems and trained the building staff on more energy-efficient building management techniques.

The agency also encouraged courthouse tenants to reduce energy waste within their work areas.

Highlights of upgrades included advanced utility metering for electric, water and natural gas, as well as energy-efficient lighting.

Building History

Originally a U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, the building is significant due to its modern façade and Depression-era murals, according to a description by the GSA.

The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of a group of Kansas Post Offices recognized for their artwork. The oil-on-canvas murals, painted by Artists J. Ward Lockwood and Richard Haines in 1935-1936, are located on the east and west walls of the lobby.

interior courthouse

The General Services Administration restored the original interior finishes, including marble and paint colors, in 1986.

Designed by Louis A. Simon, the structure was built between August 1930 and April 1932 at a cost of $1.2 million. It features a blend of Art Deco and classical influences with modern exterior ornamentation.

In 1986, when the Postal Service moved out of the building, the GSA restored the interior finishes. Original marble was painstakingly matched and the original paint colors were recreated, the GSA said.

Combining Award Programs

In 2014, the Better Buildings Federal Award will be bestowed on the federal facility that achieves the highest ranking in the Environmental Protection Agency's National Building Competition "Battle of the Buildings," which challenges federal, commercial, and industrial buildings to achieve the greatest reduction in annual energy use intensity.

More than 3,000 buildings around the country are competing in the 2013 Battle of the Buildings contest. More than 100 of the buildings are more than 100 years old.

EPA will announce winners of that competition in April.


Tagged categories: Architectural history; Architecture; Awards and honors; Building envelope; Energy efficiency; Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); Government; Retrofits

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