Rendering of new El Centro Courthouse in Imperial County


California Courthouse Sustainability

The courts maintain a vast amount of real estate in California and are in a position to play a significant role in achieving climate controls and sustainability.
Feb 9, 2022

Responsible for maintaining more than 21 million square feet of space in roughly 450 facilities statewide, the California courts can play a significant role in the health of the environment. Recognizing this opportunity, the court system has a plan for achieving climate sustainability.

The proposed plan expands on prior judicial branch initiatives to more closely align with broader executive and legislative directives by:

  • Reducing energy use
  • Lowering greenhouse gas emissions
  • Moving to 100% “clean energy”

One strategy deployed to reach these goals included replacing existing fluorescent lighting at courthouses with energy-efficient LED lighting. Thus far the judicial branch has:

  • Retrofitted the lighting in 38 courthouses
  • Saved $1.5 million in annual electricity costs
  • Reduced 2,306 tons in annual carbon dioxide emissions

The state Judicial Council, which is charged with maintaining and building new courthouses, is also installing automation systems to better regulate and track energy use at individual courthouses. The council plans to increase its communication with courts throughout the state about their energy use and provide conservation tips.

In addition to improved energy-saving equipment, practices, and education, the California court system will need adequate funding for infrastructure repairs and upgrades to its building systems to meet its sustainability goals. According to the Governor's latest infrastructure plan, the state's judicial branch needs $5 billion in deferred maintenance, only topped by the University of California and the Department of Transportation.

This recent article in Los Angeles Lawyer magazine by Merete Rietveld and Kartik Raj highlighted the judicial branch's statewide goals and strategies, with a particular focus on conservation efforts employed in Los Angeles County.

Graphic showing energy conservation goals for California courthouses