The Verdict: Local Governments Look to Courthouses for Energy Efficiency Savings

By Alison Berry, JDM Associates on May 08, 2017

Do you ever look at a courthouse and think “energy efficiency?" Probably not. That should change, as one of the trends we at Better Buildings are seeing is the prevalence of courthouse retrofits as a money- and energy-saving solution for local governments. Three local government partners – Placer County, California, Hall County, Georgia, and Cook County, Illinois – published showcase projects highlighting energy and water upgrades to their courthouses.

Most courthouses are multi-use facilities, housing many departments in addition to basic judicial functions. Courthouses make a lot of sense as a targeted opportunity for energy efficiency improvements – they’re a long-term asset in a local government’s portfolio (held for decades, even over a century) and they have a pretty steady and constant operating schedule. A reduction in energy bills means money saved for both the county AND the taxpayer!

Check out the highlights for these three Courthouse Showcases (click the links for more):

  • Placer County, CA: Historic Auburn Courthouse
    • Built 1898, on the National Register of Historic Places.
    • Achieved 30% savings with retrofits to the lighting, central plant, a new boiler, and window treatments.
    • Enacted the upgrade while preserving the historic architecture and character of the courthouse, and without disturbing judicial proceedings or museum operations.
  • Hall County, GA: Hall County Courthouse Annex
    • Built 1977. The original courthouse – and town – was leveled by a tornado in the 1880s; it was rebuilt in the 1930s, then expanded.
    • Achieved 47% savings with improvements to lighting, upgrades to the building automation system and HVAC, installing variable frequency drives (VFDs) on the chilled water pumps, and more.
    • Added bonus: the ENERGY STAR® score jumped from 27 to 89 in just three years.
  • Cook County, IL: Skokie Courthouse
    • Built 1980, originally designed as a shopping center.
    • Expecting 59% savings once water and energy efficiency retrofits are completed.
    • Improvements include a renewable energy geothermal heat pump system, lighting upgrades, weatherization, electric vehicle charging stations, and VFDs on air handling unit fans.
    • Geothermal heat pump will provide most of the courthouse’s heating and cooling requirements year-round.

While these courthouses are all very different – from age to climate – they were all renovated as part of larger efforts on the part of their respective local governments to increase sustainability, efficiency, and resiliency. Learn more about Local Government partners in the Better Buildings Solution Center!