Rush H. Limbaugh Sr. U.S Courthouse

Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA

Fentress Architects won the first-ever national design competition for a design-build courthouse as part of the GSA’s Design for Excellence Program.

Fentress Architects was commissioned under the GSA’s Design for Excellence Program to design Cape Girardeau Federal Courthouse, which houses three courtrooms and 97 employees. The building is also designed to accommodate a fourth courtroom and up to four judges’ chambers.


While clean lines establish the federal courthouse as a contemporary civic icon, the building’s red brick cladding, arched four-story windows and a domed atrium parallel local historic architecture.  Fentress Architects embraced opportunities presented by the site’s adjacency to City Hall. The final layout is a conscious, symmetrical composition whereby the Federal Courthouse and Cape Girardeau City Hall define the western and eastern axes between the two civic buildings. The symmetrical composition creates a pedestrian-friendly lawn with ample space for gathering, which together with the buildings, forms a strong civic district that helps spur positive development.

The 84-foot-tall atrium is the centerpiece of the courthouse, with oversized arched windows on three sides, reinforcing the grandeur of the entrance on the fourth. A formal staircase ascends to the upper level, while a balcony frames the perimeter overhead. Numerous large punched windows bring natural light into the courtrooms and offices. Transparent in nature, the windows afford views of the city and allow people to look inside the building.

Cape Girardeau Federal Courthouse

USGBC LEED Silver-Certified

Rush H. Limbaugh Sr. U.S Courthouse employed numerous sustainable design and construction strategies such as:

  • Natural daylight in courts
  • Highly efficient mechanical and electrical systems
  • Durable materials with low off-gassing
  • Locally-specified materials
  • Reduced site disturbance with erosion and sedimentation control
  • Occupancy sensors and CO2 sensors minimize outside air contributions while maintaining proper indoor air quality
  • Rooftop daylighting monitors provide balanced, diffuse daylight to courtrooms
  • Occupancy sensors and daylight sensors minimize the use of electric lighting
  • High-efficiency chillers and boilers
  • Centrally located, variable-air-volume air handling units with dedicated outside air unit
  • Water efficient irrigation system and landscape plan promote water efficiency
  • 10-percent recycled content
  • 20-percent locally-manufactured materials