The U.S. General Services Administration received nearly $5.6 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to modernize federal facilities and convert them into high-performance green buildings. Those dollars are starting to flow into communities in the Southeast as projects ramp up.

Skanska USA is overseeing a $49-million modernization of the George C. Young U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building in Orlando.
Photo: General Services Administration
Skanska USA is overseeing a $49-million modernization of the George C. Young U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building in Orlando.

“The government spends a lot of money on energy use in buildings, and anything we can do to make that better and reduce our carbon footprint is a good thing,” says Richard Stephenson, director of the design and construction division of GSA’s Southeast Sunbelt region in Atlanta.

Florida snagged two of the largest projects in the Southeast: a $49-million modernization of the George C. Young U.S. Courthouse Federal Building in Orlando and a $27-million envelope repair and mechanical upgrade at the Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse in Tampa.

Some projects are yet to be awarded, but a larger number of smaller green building projects of limited scope and featuring either energy conservation or renewable energy generation enhancements are moving forward throughout the Southeast region. These include:

• $2.7 million project at the Richard B. Russell U.S. Courthouse in Atlanta.

• $2.7 million job at the U.S. Internal Revenue Center Annex in Chamblee, Ga.

• $4.4 million upgrade to the Veach-Baley Federal Complex in Asheville, N.C.

• $3.1 million project at the U.S. Post Office Courthouse in New Bern, N.C.

• $4 million upgrade to the Terry Sanford Federal Building in Raleigh, N.C.

• $1.8 million project at the Strom Thurmond Federal Building and Courthouse in Columbia, S.C.

• $1.3 million job at the Matthew Perry U.S. Courthouse in Columbia, S.C.

GSA selected modernization projects based on several criteria. The agency concentrated on projects that offered energy conservation and renewable energy generation, could start within 120 days and had limited risk of failure. It also considered the facility’s condition, the project’s ability to improve asset utilization, return on investment, the opportunity to avoid lease costs and historic significance.

The agency applied different criteria to the limited-scope projects, basing selection on energy performance and a desire to upgrade the worst-performing buildings.

All of the GSA’s stimulus-funded projects have been selected. About $102.8 million is headed to 20 projects in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. The money has allowed the agency to work off much of its “shovel-ready” construction backlog.

Stephenson says some projects may cost less than anticipated due to depressed material and labor prices, and GSA will award contracts for additional small jobs with leftover funds. But that money may move outside the Southeast. All of the work must be complete by 2015.

Orlando Courthouse After GSA opened a new $105-million federal courthouse in Orlando in 2007, most workers moved to the new facility, leaving the former 1970s-era courthouse ripe for reuse. GSA will move new tenants into the old courthouse, some court related and some not, once the renovation project is complete in 2012.

“We are completely gutting the interior of the (Orlando courthouse) building. It’s a mechanical and electrical dinosaur.”

— Jennifer Goodwin, Skanska USA

Skanska USA Building of Atlanta received the $35-million, fast-track contract to modernize the 180,000-sq-ft, six-story office building. Work began in January.

“It’s a mechanical and electrical dinosaur,” says Jennifer Goodwin, senior project manager with Skanska. “We are completely gutting the interior of the building—redoing the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and building back the floors.”

The project currently focuses on abatement of asbestos, lead paint, polychlorinated biphenyls and mercury. Skanska will replace the 0.25-in.-thick glass windows with more energy-efficient glazing. A new chiller, installed in the basement, will produce ice to handle overnight cooling of the building. A rainwater collection system will provide water to flush the toilets. Rooftop solar panels will heat the hot water. The project team aims for LEED-Silver certification.

“They expect a 41% gain in energy efficiency,” Goodwin says.

Additionally, the plan includes relocating the main entrance to the west side of the structure, installing a freight elevator and building a large vestibule with a tower and a stairwell.

Tampa Courthouse Built in the 1990s, the Tampa courthouse has been plagued by water intrusion, and the building did not perform as expected.

“We’ve been reskinning and reglazing the entire building because it leaked for so many years,” Stephenson says. “But while we are at it, we are replacing the roof, which also had problems, and we are putting in new cooling towers and renovating the mechanical system.”

American Restoration of Wylie, Texas, has been fixing faults in the building envelope and received an additional $12.6-million, ARRA-funded contract to continue repairs and replace the roof.

Homeland Security Construction Corp. of St. Petersburg, Fla., received a $6-million design-build contract to upgrade mechanical, electrical, plumbing and controls components to the Tampa courthouse, so “the building will perform in the capacity that it is supposed to,” says Terry Taylor, regional area office manager for Homeland Security Construction.

TLC Engineering for Architecture of Tampa is providing MEP engineering. RSA Architecture of Los Angeles is the architect. The building will remain occupied while Homeland Security Construction completes the project.

The company will replace the cooling towers and install a new base-load chiller. New mechanical systems will allow the building to become more energy efficient, bring in more outside air and operate in a positive-pressure mode to keep the moisture out. Energy conservation measures include a new control system with occupancy sensors.

Key Players

Orlando Courthouse

Owner: General Services Administration, Atlanta
Architect: DLR Group, Orlando
Contractor: Skanska USA Building, Atlanta

Tampa Courthouse

Owner: General Services Administration, Atlanta
Engineer: Jacobs Engineering, Tampa
Building Envelope Contractor: American Restoration, Wylie, Texas
Engineer: Facility Engineering Associates, Fairfax, Va.
Energy Upgrades Contractor: Homeland Security Construction Corp., St. Petersburg, Fla.
MEP Engineer: TLC Engineering for Architects, Tampa
Architect: RSA Architecture, Los Angeles