Located on the existing 5.6-acre site alongside the Laccadive Sea, the new U.S. Embassy Colombo supports important diplomatic and commercial relations between the United States and Sri Lanka and embodies the mission of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) to provide safe, secure, functional, and resilient facilities ensuring a robust platform for U.S. diplomacy abroad. The new campus underscores OBO’s commitment to environmental leadership and demonstrates sustainable design, construction, and operations that represent the best of U.S. architecture, engineering, and building standards. ZGF Architects was the design architect with Caddell Construction Company as the design/build contractor and Integrus Architecture as the architect of record.
Design & Construction
The project underscores the important diplomatic relationship between the United States and Sri Lanka and provides the first impression of the United States for many Sri Lankans. The site architecture and landscape design embrace the local ecology, history, and culture and are heavily informed by Colombo’s tropical climate. Verdant courtyards and gardens will reduce the heat island effect and provide welcoming shade, creating a pleasant environment for visitors and for the embassy community. Protection from the elements is provided by deep roof overhangs and sunscreens that are integrated into the architecture in a manner consistent with local tradition. Domestically-sourced natural stone and wood reference the region’s rich material palette and elicit a neutral hue that allows the lushness of the landscape to come forward. The embassy’s interior incorporates textures and patterns inspired by local culture, art, and the surrounding gardens.
Resilience & Stewardship
A model of environmental stewardship, the new design reduces energy costs and greenhouse-gas emissions and increases security and resiliency strategies that advance the shared goal of the United States and Sri Lanka to augment renewable energy usage. To mitigate the strong sun and heavy rainfall, the new embassy integrates rigorous climate protection methods such as regionally available materials that can withstand the sun and corrosion in this environment, a climate-responsive shell with deep shades that protect the interior from solar heat gain, PV arrays that offset roughly seven percent of annual energy use, and an advanced stormwater management system. An on-site wastewater treatment plant allows for grey water to be treated and recycled for irrigation, while indigenous plantings promote the local ecosystem, support wildlife and habitat growth, and minimize the need for irrigation. The project is registered with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®)—a global green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices—and is on track to achieve Silver certification.
The permanent art collection, curated by OBO’s Office of Art in Embassies, includes art in a variety of media, including painting, photography, textiles, and sculpture by both U.S. and Sri Lankan artists and seeks to create a dialogue of shared values between the people of both countries. Highlights include site-specific commissions of Birds for Sri Lanka and a wall sculpture representing the atolls and coral life in the oceans. These works reflect an understanding of the diversity and richness of U.S. and Sri Lankan ecology and cultural heritage.