No. 578 . 24 April 2013 
ArchitectureWeek

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AIA Green Top Ten

by David Owen

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Headquarters

The LEED Platinum-certified headquarters for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, designed as a joint venture of KMD Architects and Stevens Associates, is the product of a rigorous building provisioning process to replace high-rent private-sector leased space with a long-term-affordable and cost-certain city-owned building.

The project is one of five California buildings in AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects for 2013, awarded by the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment. Four more winning buildings are located in Seattle, San Antonio, Milwaukee, and Norris, Tennessee, respectively.

Located near the northwest corner of San Francisco, California's Civic Center, the 13-story Class-A office building rises above the adjacent courthouse building and overlooks the neoclassical city hall on the next block, with the mass of the new building helping to define the boundaries of this important urban space.

The 277,500-square-foot (25,780-square-meter) SFPUC headquarters is clad primarily with a high-performance glass that flares out at the base of its northeastern corner marking the building's two-story main lobby. Marking the entrance and set away from the main facade, an adjacent vertical cooling tower extends from the second floor upward, supported by columns and a four-story sheer wall, and braced against the building at each spandrel location.

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The tower is one of several energy-saving elements that use the site's natural access to wind and sunlight to reduce overall building energy consumption. A photovoltaic array shades the building's entire rooftop mechanical penthouse. Wind turbines are arrayed around the perimeter of the penthouse level. According to the architects, the north facade's shape was selected to channel prevailing winds to optimum effect for the wind turbines.

The building's narrow section and glazed facade contribute to deep daylight penetration throughout upper-floor offices and horizontal shading devices on the south facade also act as light shelves.

A noteworthy achievement of the SFPUC headquarters is its water system, which includes on-site treatment of both gray and black waste water using a Living Machine-style system, and through which 100% of waste water is processed.

SFPUC has a total energy use intensity (EUI) of 9.1 kWh/ foot2/ year (97.8 kWh/ meter2/ year), and with offsets from wind and solar power generation, the net EUI is 8.5 kWh/ foot2/ year (91.5 kWh/ meter2/ year).

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