San Francisco Department Showcases Sustainable Design

SAN FRANCISCO — When the San Francisco Department of the Environment was looking for new office space in 2013, the department made it a priority to make the space environmentally friendly and highly energy-efficient.
Rather than find a full building that already offered sustainable elements, the department leased the 12th floor of a 22-story private commercial building in downtown San Francisco. With nothing yet constructed on the 24,000-square-foot floor, the project started as a blank slate for planners to build a sustainable office environment that could showcase innovative green design. Earlier this year, the project earned LEED Platinum certification and won the 2014 Business Environmental Award for Sustainable Built Environment from Acterra, a nonprofit organization based in Palo Alto, Calif., that advocates green building.
The department worked closely with the building’s property manager, Hudson Pacific Properties of Los Angeles, and with New York City-based engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti, which provided sustainability consulting.
Most of the enclosed spaces, such as conference rooms and private offices, are centralized in the core of the floor with low-profile workstations around the perimeter, allowing more access to natural light and views.
“One of the unique aspects about our floor is that it’s the first open plan in the building. A lot of newer office designs incorporate this open plan with less private offices and lower cubicle height,” said Mark Palmer, the department’s senior green building coordinator. “The building also has great daylighting. There are windows on three sides of our floor.”
Ambitious efforts make the office space a proper representation of the department’s mission to be a steward of the environment. The department wanted its base to serve as an example of how a high-performing office can be constructed on a city agency budget.
“The Department of the Environment has shown how LEED Platinum certification is a cost-effective, viable option for city departments,” said John Updike, San Francisco’s director of real estate, in a statement. “This office space adds to San Francisco’s growing list of 366 LEED-certified projects, and exemplifies how green building is now business as usual in San Francisco.”
The department’s space is 30 percent more energy-efficient than a conventional office space. To help gauge performance, the office uses a dashboard that provides real-time data for energy-consuming appliances. Efficient fixtures in the office’s two bathrooms help conserve water, and the space is also 47 percent more water-efficient than a conventional office.
“We installed controls that allow us to be more efficient. We have automatic daylight harvesting controls, occupancy sensors for lighting and ventilation, and carbon dioxide control ventilation,” Palmer said.
Almost 40 percent of office materials were manufactured using recycled material and 70 percent of the wood is certified sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council, a nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis that aims to protect forests. Additionally, 60 percent of the furniture and furnishings were reused or salvaged as the department was moving in, and 98 percent of all construction waste was diverted from landfills to recycling.
“We felt that was very important being the Department of the Environment to model efficiency for the rest of the city. It’s the first LEED Platinum [building] in the city’s public portfolio that was achieved as a tenant improvement project,” Palmer said.
While the department could only maximize efficiency features on a single floor, the project is a great example of how building tenants can strive to be green.
“We didn’t have a lot of ability to influence the energy scenario in the entire building,” Palmer said. “The building owner occupies one floor, and they just renovated their part of the building to be just like ours.”

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