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Justice league: United States courthouse

Gold Award: The Building Team for L.A.’s newest courthouse went way beyond what was expected.

June 07, 2017 |

The Building Team made extensive use of mockups to sort out interior details and materials. Bruce Damonte Photography.

This cube-like, 10-story, 240-foot-tall tower seems to hover over the ground as if it were a sculpture on a pedestal. The Building Team created this floating effect with a cantilevered perimeter consisting of 24 columns, each 42 inches in diameter, supported by a 600-ton truss system nine stories above. 

The design-build process facilitated this effort by involving the construction team early in the design phase. For example, those meetings came up with a practical truss scheme inspired by the concentric properties of a wagon wheel. 

Consistent owner and Building Team collaboration on this project included a formal partnering program, facilitated by a third-party consultant. Seven full-day workshops were held over the course of the project, at which team members established shared expectations and objectives.


A 600-ton truss system above supports the tower’s cantilevered perimeter, and helped the Building Team create the effect that the cube-shaped building is floating above the ground. Bruce Damonte Photography.


To keep the project on budget without a loss of quality, the Building Team made extensive use of functional mockups to review finishing materials, details, and lighting throughout the facility’s 24 courtrooms and 32 judicial chambers. Other procedures led to innovative value-engineering solutions, such as using soil-cement columns instead of deep foundations. 

The owner wanted to reduce the project’s annual energy outcome to 35 kBtu/sf, from the original goal of 47 kBtu/sf. That effort, dubbed “Drive for 35,” led to a six-week brainstorming session. To ensure team members were vested in the outcome, Clark, SOM, Syska, and the major MEP subs agreed to share the risk of payment for this work by tying the goal to contractually guaranteed performance.


Building Team — Submitting firm, general contractor Clark Construction Group–California Owner, developer General Services Administration Architect, structural engineer Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Mechanical/electrical engineer Syska Hennessy Group Plumbing engineer South Coast Engineering Group Construction manager Jacobs

General Information — Size 633,000 sf Cost $343 million Construction time January 2013 to August 2016 Delivery method Design-build


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