Birch Bayh Federal Building & US Courthouse

, General Services Administration

Indianapolis, IN

The historic Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Indianapolis houses the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. A distinguished example of Beaux-Arts Architecture, the facility was constructed from 1902 to 1905 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The courthouse was renamed in honor of Senator Birch Bayh in 2003. Accommodating 925 federal employees, the original U-shape construction occupied an entire block, rose four stories, and housed federal courts, offices, and the region’s main post office.

The modernization of Birch Bayh invisibly transformed the monumental landmark into a “machine for sustainability.” The structure now measurably mitigates the site’s urban heat island effect, decreases the building’s carbon footprint, and adds hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to the city’s supply every year.


  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
  • LEED Gold certified
  • National Register of Historic Places

Awards & Honors

  1. GSA Design Award, Preservation

    General Services Administration

  2. GSA Design Award, Conservation

    General Services Administration

  3. Award of Excellence in Historic Resources

    AIA Washington, DC

  4. Historic Preservation Honor Award

    AIA Virginia

  5. Best Government/Public Building

    Engineering News-Record

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.

Building Performance

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.

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, FAIA Historic Preservation & Design

Water Conservation

Rainwater Harvesting Section Drawing

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 .

Resource Efficiency Community Impact Resiliency
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.