KMD Architects and the City and County of San Francisco certainly set their sights high with the LEED Platinum San Francisco Public Utilities Commission building (SFPUC). Dubbed by many as the greenest urban office building in America, the 277,500-square-foot, 13-story building located on the northwest corner of the city’s Civic Center features sophisticated building systems designed to maximize comfort with minimal human intervention. The building envelope optimizes the sun’s energy to create a productive work environment and naturally ventilate the adjacent open office plan, while nighttime ventilation flushes excess heat from the building.
Solar panels embedded directly into the window panes help the building to exceed California’s recently-instituted Title 24 requirements for energy efficiency in new office buildings by 55 percent, according to SFPUC estimates. It is also one of the first buildings in the nation with onsite treatment of gray and black water, thanks to the Living Machine® from Worrell Water Technologies, which reclaims and treats all of the building’s wastewater to satisfy 100 percent of the water demand for the building’s low-flow toilets and urinals.
But this building isn’t just a green superpower—it’s also a cheerleader for the city, featuring two works by Bay Area artist Ned Kahn, entitled “Firefly” and “Rain Portal.” Both are meant to honor systems in nature, but it’s “Firefly” that truly captivates. Its lattice of tens of thousands of 5-inch-square, clear polycarbonate panels
move freely in the wind, resembling waves during the day and fireflies at night. The kicker? The entire piece requires less energy than a 75-watt light bulb.