Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse (Eugene, OR)

Oct. 1, 2007

Designing a government project with two seemingly discordant but equal needs-security and sustainability-is no easy undertaking. Yet the design team at the Portland office of DLR Group did "justice" to the General Services Administration in its design of the Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse in Eugene, OR, which serves the District of Oregon and encompasses the entire state as part of the Ninth Judicial Circuit. As a Security Level IV facility-one level below buildings such as the Pentagon-the building comprises a high volume of public contact with agencies including high-risk law enforcement and intelligence agencies, courts, and judicial offices, as well as access to highly sensitive government records.

The owner also sought sustainability equivalent to LEED® Silver, which posed a unique challenge to the design team: create a building that unites the implied densities of security (thickness, rigidity, separation) with essential values of sustainability (transparency, airiness, sensitivity, connectivity). The team engaged in a concerted effort toward this reconciliation, delivering a building that garnered LEED Gold certification and many design awards (as well as a spot on this month's printed issue's cover).

The design implements innovative strategies to provide building security within a living, breathing, organic design vernacular wrapped around real world sustainable features, including: a dramatic, ecologically-sensitive
transformation of the site; extensive glazing for natural light and connectivity; energy and water-saving systems and fixtures; and an architectural expression of judicial presence at a healthy, human scale.

Through a combination of extensive daylighting, dimmable lighting and innovative HVAC systems, the design responds to the building architecture with sensitivity while creating bright, airy, healthy and comfortable spaces. An underfloor air distribution system serves a majority of spaces, including the six courtrooms.

 An underfloor air distribution system serves a majority of spaces, including six courtrooms.

The building system minimizes potable water use and associated sanitary waste with water-saving fixtures including waterless urinals, and ultra low-flow lavatories, sinks and showers. Combined with fixture sensors at public locations, these measures result in savings of more than 40 percent over baseline case analysis.

Extensive use of construction materials derived from recycled content became a major contributing factor to the overall sustainability of the final built form. The use of recycled steel and aluminum components, including rebar, structural steel, steel deck, cold metal framing, metal stairs, formed metal fabrications, stainless steel detention equipment and furniture, aluminum entrances and storefronts, and factory formed metal wall panels (exterior skin), encompassed material costs exceeding 20 percent of the overall project expense. 

The indoor air quality of the Morse Courthouse is improved by the careful selection of low-VOC building materials. The design team also sought products meeting the standards of the South Coast Air Quality Management District Rules, Green Seal® and Green Label guidelines.




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