• 03.07.14

An Energy-Efficient Building That Lives Up To The Hype

Who wouldn’t want to work in this super green government building?

Hooray, an energy-efficient building that lives up to its eco-dreams! In 2012, a federal warehouse was redeveloped into a district headquarters for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Seattle. As part of the General Service Administration’s Design Excellence Program, the designers, ZGF Architects, were pushed to transform the 209,000-square-foot building into an aggressively energy-efficient and sustainable model known as Federal Center South Building 1202.


One of the pitfalls in measuring the true value of energy-efficient architecture is that buildings in the U.S. are ordained Platinum-worthy before the doors so much as open. Eco-friendly designs don’t always live up to their promise, and they’re rarely evaluated after the construction phase, so it’s difficult to tell if they run as efficiently as planned. In this case, a post-occupancy study shows that sustainable design elements in Building 1202 seem to have worked. The new building, which is oriented to take advantage of natural light and uses glazing and shading to avoid overheating, saved 40% in energy over a comparable building. The structure also features underfloor air circulation and a thermal storage tank containing phase-change material that stockpiles energy for later use.

In fact, the entire campus of Federal Center South where Building 1202 is located reduced its energy use by 40% between 2011 and 2013. The amount of energy saved by the whole campus would be the equivalent of what 311 Seattle homes would normally use in a year. Oh, and with reclaimed timber interiors and tree-filled atriums, it’s pretty, too.

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.