IRS 30th Street Campus

File Type: Free Content, Case study
Release Date: December 2012
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IRS building on 30th Street

Fast Facts

Address: Philadelphia, Penn.
Company/Developer: Brandywine Realty Trust
Project Specs: Retrofit/Major Renovation
Project Type: Office
Square Feet: 862,692

Project History: The Art Deco-style former Main Post Office is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and encompasses 927,183 GSF spread over 5 main floors elevated over rail lines. When completed in 1935 it was the most technologically advanced postal facility in the world. It served as the Postal Service’s Main Distribution Center for Center City Philadelphia until 2005.

By the 1990’s the massive industrial facility and surrounding postal properties no longer met the functional needs of the Postal Service. They began planning for a new facility adjacent to the Philadelphia International Airport. In May 2003, Keating Development Company (KDC) began discussions with the General Services Administration (GSA) regarding the potential relocation and consolidation of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offices in the Philadelphia area to the soon-to-be vacant Main Post Office.  In March 2004, the Postal Service executed an agreement for the University of Pennsylvania to acquire all the Postal Service’s 30th Street properties including the Main Post Office. The University had no other plans for the Main Post Office and continued looking for development opportunities therein. In June 2005, Brandywine Realty Trust executed a letter of intent with the University which contemplated that BRT would acquire the Post Office Building from the University. The building would be renovated and leased to the GSA. GSA would then sublease the building to the IRS with the IRS as its sole tenant. In addition, Brandywine would execute a 90 year ground lease with the University for the adjacent site and construct a parking deck for use by the IRS.

After extensive negotiations over lease terms, historic preservation concerns, security issues and renovation scope, the GSA signed the lease agreement in August 2007 for a 20 year term. Conventional financing and structuring to utilize and sell historic tax credits and new markets tax credits occurred simultaneously with the lease negotiations permitting parallel tracking of the development and financing phases. Design started immediately following the lease closing and construction was completed on August 26, 2010.

Commitment to Sustainability

Brandywine Realty Trust’s commitment to sustainability has focused on (i) re-thinking old methods and figuring out how to do things more effectively and effectively, (ii) changing behaviors and (iii) figuring out ways to appropriately use fewer resources. In this vein, several years ago, we formed Brandywine Environments, a cross-function, multi-regional task force of some of our key corporate and operating functions. Their mission was to optimize sustainability results with the least amount of operational disruption.

Brandywine’s strategy toward sustainability companywide focuses on seven main areas: Energy Management, Construction/Development, Building Operations, Incentives/Regulatory, Alternative Energy, Office Environments and Tenant Communication. We believe that by focusing on all of the noted areas that can impact sustainability, awareness and effort by Brandywine and our tenants, can help achieve the goals we’ve set forth in each category.

At Brandywine, we know that real estate isn’t just a business. It’s also an opportunity to change the built environment—and the way people work and live—for the better. These efforts create healthier office environments and cost savings through awareness and, ultimately, consumption reduction. This is not only the responsible thing to do; we believe it also makes good business sense. Energy efficient buildings with sustainable operating practices cost less to run and are better for tenants’ health and the environment. Brandywine Environments fosters a culture of responsible business practices for our tenants, employees, shareholders and communities.

Green Features

Economic Analysis

  • The project is a $260.5 million historically certified, rehabilitation of an 862,692-square-foot postal facility which is 100 percent leased to the Internal Revenue Service for a 20 year term. The $95 million Cira South Garage project is located across the street and consists of a 1,662-car parking structure which is 94 percent leased to the Internal Revenue Service and entailed the demolition of the postal annex facility and recreation of a parking facility.
  • The total project costs are approximately $350 million with financing of $209,340,000 and $46,735,000 on the 30th Street Post Office and Cira South Garage projects, respectively. Historic tax credits and new markets tax credits for the IRS building and the garage respectively, helped make the project viable by providing necessary “gap” equity.
  • A collaborative full time emphasis on energy efficiency, operating cost and productivity was incorporated into all aspects of the design, construction and commissioning of the project. Over the 20 year lease, it is expected the investments will exceed an 8.3 percent annual rate of return.
  • Adaptive reuse of materials, local sourcing of materials and recycling of existing materials was an active part of the project and life cycle costing of HVAC, lighting, BAS and energy management systems were considered and implemented throughout the project.
a hallway in the IRS building on 30th Street

Materials Use

  • Low-E, laminated double-glazing and new insulation throughout maximize thermal performance; low-VOC carpet, paint and finishes improve air quality; innovative technologies were employed to meet federal blast-security criteria without removing any historic fabric; and use of recycled and regionally produced construction materials conserve valuable resources.
  • LEED construction credits were earned for:
    • Building Reuse: Maintaining 95 percent of walls floor and roof; 
    • Construction Waste Management: Diverting 90 percent of construction waste from landfills;
    • Recycled Content: Use of materials with >30 percent recycled content;
    • Regional Materials: Use of materials that were >20 percent extracted, processed and manufactured within a 500 mile radius; and
    • Low-Emitting Materials: Adhesives and Sealants, Paints and Coatings, Carpet Systems, and Composite Woods and Agrifiber Products.
  • The project reversed 70 years of exterior deterioration with the cleaning and repointing of the limestone exterior. The pedestrian bridge over Chestnut Street was removed as well as the nonconforming window modifications, which had been made over time to the facade. Original bronze windows were restored and now meet both thermal and blast-security criteria without the removal of historic fabric.
  • The U.S. Post Office’s ornate public lobby featuring two entry rotundas with mosaic domes in a Mayan motif was fully restored. The domes, each with nearly 100,000 pieces of glass faience tiles in nine different shades of green and blue with 128 reflectors, were refreshed to reveal their original brilliance. The character of the building’s original 1930s public lobby depended on what was then a state-of-the-art lighting system that substituted natural light with indirect, 100 percent electric illumination.
  • Interior restoration focused on both the space’s spectacular finishes, and an energy-efficient recreation of the extraordinary 1930s lighting effects.

Energy Efficiency

The 30th Street Post Office IRS Regional Campus building has been certified to earn an Energy Star Performance rating of 85. LEED Energy and Atmosphere credits were earned for:

  • Optimize Energy Performance;
  • Enhanced Commissioning;
  • Enhanced Refrigerant Management; and
  • Measurement and Verification.

In addition, the Renovation and Restoration of the 30th Street Post Office earned LEED Indoor Environmental Quality credits associated with the new energy efficient building systems as follows:

  • Outdoor Air Delivery Monitoring;
  • Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plans: During Construction and Before Occupancy;
  • Controllability of Systems – Lighting;
  • Thermal Comfort: Design and Verification.

Contributing to the Optimized Energy Performance of the building is all of the work devoted to upgrading the building systems and the quality of the thermal envelope of the existing building through the following design and construction strategies:

  • The new roofing systems and site work are constructed of materials with high reflectivity that will not absorb heat, thereby reducing the impact of this substantial thermal mass on the surrounding temperature and minimizing the building's urban heat island effect on the exterior climate.
  • The mechanical, plumbing, the electrical systems were replaced with energy and resource efficient equipment, producing a comfortable, controllable indoor environment for the work force. New LED lighting was installed to further conserve energy.
  • All of the exterior walls and roof have been newly insulated and all of the masonry joints were repointed and resealed. Significant investment was made in new flashing and roofing systems to ensure that the building envelope is tight.
  • Energy Modeling guided decisions to upgrade the original over-sized bronze single-glazed windows to be double insulated. They provide amazing views of the Philadelphia skyline to the building occupants while bringing in daylight to mingle with the natural light at the heart of the building coming through the new 30' x 200' skylight and central light well. A Daylight Harvesting system integrated with the Building Automated Management System was designed and installed as an energy conserving measure employed to significantly reduce the energy usage of the building.
interior of IRS building on 30th Street

Water Efficiency

  • This project was awarded a LEED Innovation in Design credit for Water Use Reduction Exemplary Performance. This projected water savings of 40% was achieved by utilizing lower than required flow water closets and urinals as well as low flow shower heads and faucet aerators. The infrared faucets specified are flow duration time adjustable.
  • An additional two LEED Water Efficiency credits were earned for water efficient landscaping.


Brandywine Realty Trust and KDC worked with the IRS management team to develop a comprehensive Transportation Management Plan specific to the 30th Street Post Office site which achieved exemplary performance in alternative transportation access and use by providing IRS employees  with multiple options for Alternative Transportation. The Plan subsidizes and facilitates employees’ use of multiple modes of public and energy efficient transportation when commuting to and from work. The IRS Campus Leaders made a commitment to implement this plan as the primary way to reduce their transportation footprint. The following features are included in the Transportation Management Plan:

  • Site selection at the urban hub of five different public transportation systems and a regional rail network;
  • The IRS Public Transportation Subsidy Program;
  • Collaboration and coordination with Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) to extend public transportation service to include direct express links between route segments for the Internal Revenue Service late night and off hour work shifts;
  • The IRS carpooling network website;
  • The SEPTA CCT Connect Para Transit System with three new designated para transit vehicle spots located on Schuylkill Avenue at the accessible Market Street entrance;
  • Regular email distribution of IRS employee newsletter with information for employee access to pre-existing alternative transportation programs such as the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) Emergency Ride Home Program and eRideShare;
  • Encouragement of employee use of new adjacent Philly Car Share pod of cars for work time errand use and appointments;
  • Provision of bike racks for 84 bicycles on this tight urban site and six employee showers; plus changing facilities located on the street level floor.

Site Development

  • The Post Office was commissioned in 1930, with construction complete in 1935. The building was built along with its twin, the 30th Street Train Station, which serves as a regional hub for Amtrak and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). With intertwining transportation operations, these two buildings were intended to seed a massive urban development. While the train station continues in its role as regional hub, the Post Office became obsolete. Vacated in 2008 by the USPS, the city-block sized facility was designated as a brownfield by the City of Philadelphia, and had many challenging factors to consider before undergoing such a massive restoration:
    • The five-story building, an example of 1930’s Art Deco-style federal architecture, was technologically obsolete and showed signs of exterior deterioration;
    • Dense urban fabric, high real estate value, and remote air freight facilities, made the property unsuitable for industrial use;
    • Large, 400-foot deep floor plate precluded reuse as residential housing or conventional commercial tenancies; and
    • Located above rail yards and protected on the National Register of Historic Places, the facility could not be replaced with new construction.
  • The complex negotiations to get this project underway involved working with a design team and contraction manager, and culminated in the GSA and the USPS signing a Memorandum of Understanding, formalizing a year’s worth of discussions that paved the way for redevelopment of the historic U.S. Post Office building into a new campus for the IRS. The state-of-the-art office space houses over 5,000 IRS employees in approximately 900,000 square feet, along with structured parking for up to 1,600 vehicles.
  • In order to successfully deliver the project on time and within budget, the dedicated project team developed a project management plan, identifying shared project goals between Brandywine Realty Trust, GSA, IRS and the design and construction team; identifying various roles of team members; and a detailed risk analysis and mitigation strategies.
  • Initially, a complex property acquisition, ground lease and transfer process was planned so that Brandywine Realty Trust, with the consulting support of KDC, could redevelop the underutilized brownfield site of the historic 30th Street Post Office. The GSA and the USPS were integrally involved in the conception of this unique opportunity to reuse the historic U.S. Post Office building in Philadelphia. The USPS sold the whole “Postal Parcel” to the University of Pennsylvania, which in turn, immediately sold the Post Office Building to Brandywine Realty Trust. The University was interested in the southern portion of the property parcel to redevelop the adjacent once paved over parking lot of 14 acres as an open space park which has since been completed.


  • The most unique aspect of this urban redevelopment project is the accomplishment of a LEED Gold rated sustainable restoration and renovation of a property of this massive scale (one million square feet) – on schedule and on budget.
  • The IRS 30th Street facility was approved in 2012 by USGBC for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold Rating. The project features an inventive four-story light well that brings abundant natural light deep into the building. Slicing through the center of the floor plate, the resulting 200-foot-long by 26-foot-wide atrium is encased by a glazed wall and topped by a skylight, humanizing the interior and creating an exciting, dynamic office environment.
  • The development team tackled the challenge of the elevated viaduct structure, which the building sits on, above Amtrak’s northeast corridor train lines with a creative approach that resulted in a unique perimeter security system. Since the building is essentially supported on a bridge structure which does not allow use of conventional deep foundations for security site barriers, the concept of a custom designed bollard and vehicular barrier system with broad, shallow, heavily-reinforced foundations was developed. This structural design maintained the building's civic presence and accommodated the intense pedestrian sidewalk traffic, while still providing a secure perimeter. 
  • Similarly novel is the catch cable system solution designed to protect the window openings from an explosive event. The beautiful bronze window frames are an important feature of this landmark building, and an unusual effort was made to maintain the appearance of the windows. New double-insulated low-E laminated glazing units replaced original single glazing, and laminated glass sheets work in concert with horizontal cables anchored on the interior side of the windows to prevent any glass from entering the interior space in a blast situation. The aesthetic success of this unique solution is that the diameter of the cables is so small they are virtually invisible from the exterior and un-noticeable on the interior in comparison to the large window openings that flood the interior space with natural daylight. The perception of these beautiful bronze windows in a thick masonry wall is unchanged by the required security upgrade, and this new design response to the problem of how to adapt a historic building to meet perimeter security standards is valuable in future applications.