April 23, 2007


by Jorge Chapa

San Francisco’s Civic Tower: Greenest sustainable green Civic Administration Building 525 golden gate

Recently, we’ve been seeing scads of new projects that make big claims about their sustainable features. Some projects feature elaborate photovoltaic systems, a few wind turbines, or recycled material, while others promise to save water as much as possible. All in all, the competition to become THE sustainable building project is heating up, and now, the City of San Francisco is putting its foot down and letting everyone know that their new Civic Administration Tower, designed by KMD Architects in collaboration with Timmons Design Engineers, will be the greenest of them all.

San Francisco’s Civic Tower: Greenest sustainable green Civic Administration Building 525 golden gate

A few years ago, the City of San Francisco drew up plans to build a new City Hall annex. At the time, the building had been designed to be as sustainable as possible. However, due to technological constraints, the building was created to meet a LEED silver rating. It included features such as tinted windows and decent shading, as well as a floor plan meant to use as much daylight as possible. But other ideas had to be thrown out. In the end, the project was put on hold due primarily to budgetary constraints. Oh what a difference a few years make…

The San Francisco Administration Building project, now revived due to a new cost-benefit estimate asserting that the building could save the city about 6 million dollars per year, has a new set of features that, according to the city, would make it the most sustainable office building in the United States.

San Francisco’s Civic Tower: Greenest sustainable green Civic Administration Building 525 golden gate

The 14-story office project, known as 525 Golden Gate, is designed to consume 20% less energy than what is required by the California energy use code and will feature, amongst other things, integrated solar panels on the façade and roof, and solar panels installed on the shading devices. Large windows made from spectrally-tuned glazing materials will provide generous daylight to the interior, which was designed around a central core in order to maximize daylight penetration. Light shelves were added to the design to improve the light penetration.

As for the internal environment of the building, the design calls for a raised floor ventilation system and chilled ceilings- all individually controlled at each workstation for occupant control. Demountable partitions allow for changing building usages over time, while materials from the previous to-be-demolished building will be reused for the new construction. Furthermore, solar greenhouses have been included on every floor to improve the internal environment of the building.

San Francisco’s Civic Tower: Greenest sustainable green Civic Administration Building 525 golden gate

And as if that wasn’t enough the project now includes wind turbines along part of the facade and roof to generate energy. Add waterless urinals and the reuse of recycled wastewater to the mix, and you get what seems to be a pretty impressive building that sets the bar higher than ever.

+S.F. hopes to set example with new green tower (San Francisco Chronicle)
+KMD Architects
+Timmons Design Engineers

7 Responses to “SAN FRANCISCO’S CIVIC TOWER: Greenest Of Them All”

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Richie Says:

It seems petty cool. It would be nicer if occupants could open the windows though ? It only seems to be 14 stories tall. So why not design in windows that can open, or at least partially open ? Isn’t the ‘greenest’ of all ‘green’ elements fresh air ?

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betty76 Says:

Good point, Richie. What’s the priority? The greenest building ever? Or creating an inviting and comfortable environment for occupants?

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Wind Turbines along parts of the building, Can´t see it, where is it ?
Show us, please…

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kyle Says:

i don’t see how this goes far enough to meet what the city proclaims. how about on-site power generation? how about on-site water treatment, and greywater re-use. passive ventilation strategies could be huge in a building like this - operable windows etc. cool looking building though!!

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Jennifer Says:

Sounds like they are using greywater Kyle. It may not be as green as possible but a great start. Maybe they could grow food in the greenhouses.

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GhoulMan Says:

This building seems like its adopting all the right ideas even if there is potential for more. Im from Australia, we have the greenstar rating system over here, similar to LEED. We have a pretty good example of a ‘green’ building called CH2 Melbourne or Council House 2. You should check it out, I think its taking lots of steps in the right direction.


Jorge Chapa
Jorge Says:

Funny that you should mention CH2, we did a feature on it a little while ago, and I agree it’s one of the best buildings in my opinion. See:

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