Birch Bayh Federal Building & US Courthouse

, General Services Administration

Indianapolis, IN

Birch Bayh Courtroom
Grand Staircase
Hallway
Exterior view
Exterior view of full building

Constructed in 1905 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse is a work of art. Adorned with ceramic tile mosaics, stained-glass windows, and 22 different marbles from around the world, the magnificence of the architecture is overshadowed only by the critical work taking place within its walls.

After more than a century of serving the people of Indiana, the courthouse required an extensive renovation to extend its useful life, support current needs, and meet contemporary standards for safety and accessibility. EYP’s phased modernization of the occupied landmark helped improve occupant comfort and security while respecting and preserving the building’s historic fabric.

As you pass under the barrel-vaulted limestone ceilings or ascend the monumental, curved marble staircases, the changes designed by EYP are intentionally invisible. Preservation analysis informed a strategic roadmap to guide decisions about equipment locations and threading of new systems through the structure. The team balanced energy efficiency and building performance with architectural sensitivity, ease of operations, and long term maintenance. Construction was carefully choreographed to minimize disruptions to the courts.

The most visible changes start at the top. A new 30,000-square-foot vegetative roof — one of the largest on a historic structure — reduces the urban heat island effect, decreases the building’s carbon footprint, and provides visual inspiration through seasonal flowering plants. A rainwater harvesting system with a 10,000-gallon holding capacity reduces the amount of rainwater outflow from the site and serves as “grey water” to reduce water use in the building by hundreds of thousands of gallons every year.

The best public architecture visibly embodies the principles of our nation while evolving to meet the current and future needs of its citizens. The General Services Administration’s larger vision of the LEED Gold Birch Bayh Federal Building inspired the design team to maximize the building’s potential as a sustainable model citizen — one that gives back to its community.

Features:

  1. Feature 1:

    Strobe alarm systems installed are positioned to meet regulations, but with minimal impact on building walls.

  2. Feature 2:

    The team recreated 6-foot round plaster medallions to accommodate the increased flow of the new air handling systems.

  3. Feature 3:

    Plumbing was installed between walls to circulate rainwater from the green roof to bathroom utilities.

  4. Feature 4:

    Sprinkler systems are discreetly placed and in some cases painted to blend with the original building walls.

Building Facts

  • 540,000 GSF modernization
  • LEED Gold certified
  • National Register of Historic Places

Model Citizen

1.20 % reduction in heat-island effect for the project site

Urban heat islands are the temperature spikes that occur in cities, due to the condensed amount of human activity and buildings.

Increased air conditioning costs, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions are among its detrimental effects.

30 % reduction in facility water usage via stormwater management

Stormwater management and subsequent harvesting is the act of capturing falling precipitation, storing it, and using it to offset the reliance on traditional supply forms.

18 % energy savings from an integrated system design

An integrated system design ensures that a high-performing building can do more with less energy.

Maximizing Resources

We extend the useful life of buildings, enabling them to conform to current requirements for program, code, performance, and brand, while incorporating elements of enduring value. It's a sustainable, cost-effective opportunity for clients to realize a "new" facility.

Birch Bayh’s Discreet Modernization Features

Birch Bayh Courtroom

Features:

  1. Feature 1:

    Strobe alarm systems installed are positioned to meet regulations, but with minimal impact on building walls.

  2. Feature 2:

    The team recreated 6-foot round plaster medallions to accommodate the increased flow of the new air handling systems.

  3. Feature 3:

    Plumbing was installed between walls to circulate rainwater from the green roof to bathroom utilities.

  4. Feature 4:

    Sprinkler systems are discreetly placed and in some cases painted to blend with the original building walls.

The work achieved by this team for the American public is a stand-out example of thoughtful restraint combined with creative engineering and design ingenuity.

Robert P. Theel, FAIA GSA Regional Chief Architect

The Birch Bayh project, to me, is the embodiment of the direction that preservation as a design discipline is moving: fully integrated with all the other design disciplines.

Matthew Chalifoux
Matthew Chalifoux Senior Historic Preservation Architect
water harvesting diagram

Water Conservation

A new stormwater recovery system provides non-potable water for select building functions, conserving potable municipal water and reducing stormwater runoff into the antiquated water collection system.

A 10,000-gallon capacity stormwater harvesting system provides non-potable water for public restrooms and the site irrigation system. The 30,000 GSF vegetative roof absorbs and utilizes rain to feed the plants. Together the two systems are capable of reducing the building's annual use of municipal water by an average of 270,000 gallons, a reduction of 70% compared to pre-renovation use of potable water for these same functions.

The water harvesting systems and vegetative roof also benefit Indianapolis by significantly decreasing stormwater runoff into the city's 19th-century combined municipal storm and sewer system .

US flag

Welcoming New Americans to A New Life

Many dream their whole lives of becoming American citizens, and embracing our country's longstanding values of freedom, fairness, equality, and compassion. Each year, hundreds take part in naturalization ceremonies at the modernized Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, experiencing this life-changing ceremony as we welcome them to this nation.