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In Depth Case Studies

Seattle Justice Center

This photo shows the south view of the Seattle Justice Center.

Photo credit: Christian Richters


  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Building type(s): Public order & safety
  • New construction
  • 288,000 ft2 (26,800 m2)
  • Project scope: 14-story building
  • Urban setting
  • Completed October 2002
  • Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2/v.2.1--Level: Silver (33 points)

The Seattle Justice Center is 14-story building within the three-block Civic Center area of downtown Seattle. The Justice Center houses Seattle's municipal courts and police headquarters in a dense urban setting. The design challenge was to create distinct and unique identities for the courts and the police headquarters within one building. The combination of programs yielded a structure with two different parts: a primarily glass Courts portion that occupies the southern part of the block and a primarily stone Police portion on the northern part. The bipartite nature of the building is also reflected in the organization of the Civic Center Master Plan; both building and urban design are inextricably linked.

Environmental Aspects

A large section of the west façade of the building was designed as a naturally vented "double skin" façade, composed of two separate planes of glass separated by a 30-inch air space. This curtainwall allows penetration of light to the interior while minimizing heat gain. This air space has automatically controlled louvers at the roof level to release or retain heat gain as required. Interior lightshelves at each floor of the curtainwall act as shading devices.

The principal roof areas of the building are designed with a "green" roof with drought-resistant and low-maintenance plants. This concept inherently adds an insulating layer of soil and removes solar heat gain through photosynthesis. It absorbs and stores rainwater and filters pollutants out of the air while returning some oxygen to the atmosphere.

A water harvesting system collects rainwater and stores it for later reuse. Harvested rainwater is used to irrigate plants as needed and to charge the water feature in the landscape design. Using harvested rainwater reduces the building's use of municipal potable water.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned and occupied by City of Seattle, Local government

This building is occupied by the Seattle Municipal Courts and the headquarters for the Seattle Police Department. Some functions of the Police Department are in constant use, 24 hours a day.

Building Programs

Indoor Spaces:

Office (70%), Circulation (10%), Public assembly (9%), Mechanical systems (7%), Electrical systems (2%), Restrooms (2%)

Outdoor Spaces:

Patio/hardscape (60%), Garden—decorative (40%), Shade structures/outdoor rooms (20%)


Integrated team, Design charrette, Training, Green framework, Simulation, Green specifications, Commissioning, Performance measurement and verification, Operations and maintenance, Transportation benefits, Open space preservation, Stormwater management, Water harvesting, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Efficient irrigation, Drought-tolerant landscaping, Glazing, Passive solar, HVAC, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, Efficient lighting, Adaptable design, Durability, Recycled materials, Local materials, Certified wood, C&D waste management, Occupant recycling, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Low-emitting materials, Indoor air quality monitoring

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