The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject
. (May 2018)
A federal building is a building housing local offices of various government departments and agencies in countries with a federal system, especially when the central government is referred to as the "federal government".
There are design issues specific to federal buildings, relating to their multipurpose functions and concerns related to the fact of their association with the government. For example, as symbols of the government, they may potentially be focus of protests or threats, so there are security issues. Also environmental impacts and environmentally sound design may be more important.
A committee set up by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 issued "Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture". Towards improving design of federal buildings in the United States, "the committee recommended architecture that would convey the 'dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American Government.' Designers and officials were encouraged to pay special attention to site selection and layout, including landscape development."
Some architects specialize in federal building designs.
The first U.S. Federal building authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1807, with an appropriation of $20,000 to build, in New Orleans, a post office, courthouse, or custom house.
Historically, the authorization and construction of the first federally-funded building in a small town often has been a major event. Sometimes these were simply a post office or a courthouse; often they were combination buildings.
The Treasury Department of the U.S. established a Department of Construction office in 1852. From 1864 on the Office of the Supervising Architect handled design of federal buildings.
William Gibbs McAdoo, the Secretary of the Treasury from 1913-1918, and the Supervising Architect at the time, James A. Wetmore promoted standardization of government building design. They instituted the policy that buildings were to be designed with "scale, materials and finishes" that directly reflected their "location, prominence and income". This push to standardization of public building design was in conflict with the Tarsney Act, which permitted private architects to design federal buildings after being selected in a competition under the supervision of the Supervising Architect. The act, under which several prior buildings were designed, was repealed in 1913 as it was felt that designing building with government architects would most efficiently cause the desired standardization.
Buildings were to be designed with specific criteria, A "Class A" building was one which was on a major street of a major city, surrounding by expensive building and expected to generate at least $800,000 in revenue. These buildings would have marble or granite exteriors, marble interiors, ornamental bronze, and other similar fixtures.
A small post office with revenue of under $15,000 would be made of brick, with standard wood windows and doors and would appear "ordinary". Critics felt the system would make public buildings too plain.
The growth of cities and government functions has led to the need for large multipurpose highrise federal buildings. An example is the 32-story $120 million construction in Cleveland of the Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building.
In the United States, multipurpose federal buildings are generally managed by the U.S. General Services Administration. The GSA recognized its top 20 federal buildings in 2014.
Notable buildings in the United States that have been termed "federal building" include:
- Edward R. Roybal Federal Building, Los Angeles, California
- James C. Corman Federal Building, Los Angeles, California
- Main Post Office and Federal Building (Oakland, California), NRHP-listed in Alameda County
- Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building, Oakland, California
- San Francisco Federal Building, San Francisco, California
- U.S. Post Office, Courthouse and Federal Building (Sacramento, California), NRHP-listed
- U.S. Post Office (Stockton, California), also known as the Federal Building
- Wilshire Federal Building, Los Angeles, California
- Byron White United States Courthouse, Denver, Colorado, formerly known and NRHP-listed as "U.S. Post Office and Federal Building"
- Federal Building (Colorado Springs, Colorado), a former Ent Air Force Base computer facility
- Pueblo Federal Building, Pueblo, Colorado, NRHP-listed
- United States Post Office and Federal Courthouse-Colorado Springs Main, NRHP-listed
- US Post Office and Federal Building-Canon City Main, Canon City, Colorado, NRHP-listed in Fremont County
- US Post Office and Federal Building-Delta Main, Delta, Colorado, NRHP-listed in Delta County
- US Post Office and Federal Building-Monte Vista Main, Monte Vista, Colorado, NRHP-listed in Rio Grande County
- US Post Office, Federal Building, and Federal Courthouse-Sterling Main, Sterling, Colorado, NRHP-listed in Logan County
- Chicago Federal Building, Chicago, Illinois
- Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, also known as "Dirksen Federal Building" or the "Chicago Federal Center", Chicago, Illinois
- Kluczynski Federal Building, Chicago, Illinois
- Pekin Federal Building, Pekin, Illinois, NRHP-listed
- Alton Lennon Federal Building and Courthouse, Wilmington, North Carolina, NRHP-listed
- Charles R. Jonas Federal Building, Charlotte, North Carolina, NRHP-listed
- Federal Building (Raleigh, North Carolina), NRHP-listed
- Federal Building (Wilkesboro, North Carolina), NRHP-listed
- U. S. Post Office and Federal Building (Rockingham, North Carolina), NRHP-listed
- Akron Post Office and Federal Building, Akron, Ohio, NRHP-listed
- Ralph Regula Federal Building and US Courthouse, Canton, OH
- Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building, Cleveland, Ohio
- Donald J. Pease Federal Building, Medina, Ohio, NRHP-listed in Medina County
- Federal Building (Youngstown, Ohio), NRHP-listed in Mahoning County
- Old Federal Building and Post Office (Cleveland, Ohio), NRHP-listed
- Old Post Office and Federal Building (Dayton, Ohio), NRHP-listed in Montgomery County
- US Post Office and Federal Building-Zanesville, Zanesville, Ohio, NRHP-listed
- Federal Building (Abilene, Texas), NRHP-listed in Taylor County
- Hipolito F. Garcia Federal Building and United States Courthouse, NRHP-listed in Bexar County as "San Antonio US Post Office and Courthouse"
- J. J. Pickle Federal Building, Austin, Texas, NRHP-listed in Travis County
- Jack Brooks Federal Building, Beaumont, Texas, NRHP-listed
- Lubbock Post Office and Federal Building, Lubbock, Texas, NRHP-listed
- O. C. Fisher Federal Building, San Angelo, Texas, NRHP-listed in Tom Green County
- Old Federal Building and Post Office (Victoria, Texas), NRHP-listed in Victoria County
- Sam B. Hall, Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse, Marshall, Texas, NRHP-listed
- U.S. Post Office and Federal Building (Austin, Texas), NRHP-listed
- US Post Office and Federal Building (Port Arthur, Texas), NRHP-listed in Jefferson County
- US Post Office-Federal Building-Brenham, Brenham, Texas, NRHP-listed in Washington County
- Ward R. Burke U.S. Courthouse, Lufkin, Texas, also known and NRHP-listed in Angelina County as "Old Federal Building-Federal Courthouse"
- U.S. Post Office and Courthouse (Bellingham, Washington), also known as "Federal Building", built during 1912-13, NRHP-listed
- U.S. Post Office and Customshouse (Everett, Washington), also known as "Federal Building", NRHP-listed in Snohomish County
- U.S. Post Office – Downtown Tacoma, Tacoma, Washington, NRHP-listed in Pierce County
Notable Federal buildings in Canada include: