The Mob Museum (National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement)

System overhaul; The Mob Museum (National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement); Westlake Reed Lesosky


The $42 million Mob Museum for the city of Las Vegas rehabilitates the historic former U.S. Post Office and federal courthouse into a contemporary museum, cultural destination, and centerpiece for downtown, while preserving its historic character and spacEngineering firm: Westlake Reed Leskosky
2013 MEP Giants rank:
The Mob Museum (National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement)
Las Vegas, Nev., United States
Building type:
Art/museum venue
Project type:
System overhaul (e.g., mechanical system upgrade, fire protection system overhaul, etc.)
Engineering services:
Automation & Controls, Code Compliance, Electrical/Power, Fire & Life Safety, HVAC, Lighting
Project timeline:
February 2007 to February 2012


Westlake Reed Leskosky was retained by the City of Las Vegas to plan, design, and implement the expansion and adaptive reuse, including exhibit fit-out, of the 1933 Las Vegas U.S. Post Office and Courthouse as a new museum on the history of organized crime and law enforcement and the development of Las Vegas. The $42 million project developed the building and site as a contemporary cultural destination in the heart of downtown Las Vegas, while maintaining the historic integrity of one of the few buildings in the city listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A major challenge of the project was fitting a full, modern museum program into the existing building, while maintaining the integrity and character of the historic spaces. A key challenge involved the sensitive integration of new, state-of-the-art mechanical and electrical systems. The building was not originally designed for air conditioning and has historic plaster ceilings throughout, with no above-ceiling space to conceal equipment. Additionally, historic preservation concerns meant that no equipment could come within 4 ft of any window, in order to preserve the views and natural light into the building. Also, as a museum, the building needs to accommodate more occupants that it did in its former use, requiring more cooling capacity, ductwork, and air handling units. Finally, the building's program did not allow room for the new air handler units within the building, forcing them to be placed on the roof. However, seeing the air handling units would change the relationship of the historic building to the sky, which could not be allowed. In addition, the existing structure did not have the electrical distribution to serve a modern museum building use.


The solution was to carefully locate all mechanical systems, including ductwork, fire protection piping, electrical ductbanks, and low-voltage wiring, away from windows and out of spaces of primary historical significance. This allowed the most important historic spaces to remain unaltered. However, this caused severe congestion at the ceilings of the less significant spaces. Thorough coordination among the design team and with the contractor was required to ensure that all systems would fit within the space allowed. The new roof-mounted air handler units were placed with the aid of numerous sightline studies and careful equipment selection to ensure that they would not be viewed by a pedestrian from the sidewalk below.

To address the out-of-date electrical system, a new 480 V electrical distribution system with emergency stand-by generator was installed to meet the requirements of a modern museum building. Audio circuits were provided via a segregated distribution system served by an electrostatically shielded isolation transformer to minimize noise. Existing historic luminaires were refurbished for reuse or recreated using energy-efficient sources. New, period-correct energy-efficient luminaires were specified in the historic areas. A central lighting control panel sets scenes throughout exhibit spaces via DMX signals permitting easy reprogramming as exhibits evolve. The system is tied into the fire alarm system for emergency override. Structural reinforcements to the building required selected exterior and interior walls to have shotcrete applied. This, along with the requirement to preserve historically significant areas and the dense mechanical systems, required detailed coordination among the disciplines to place raceway and other systems.

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