The San Francisco Federal Building

San Francisco Federal Building

San Francisco Federal Building

Most of us have noticed the new Federal Building complex in South of Market – it’s readily apparent and distinctive from both the route 101- and 80- freeways. Fewer are aware that the building is widely regarded as a cutting-edge example in the art of high-performance green building.

Owned by the Government Services Administration (GSA), the facility serves the Social Security Administration, Department of Labor, Department of Health & Human Services, and the Department of Agriculture. The design team was led by Morphosis Architects of Los Angeles and included the LA office of Ove Arup for the integrated structural and mechanical design.

The complex consists of several components including a four-story structure housing the SSA, an undulating form at plaza level accommodating a day-care center and cafeteria, and the dominant, 18-story tower.


The perforated skin of the Federal Building controls light and airflow through the building

The folded, perforated metal skin covering much of the southeast face of the tower assists in the flow of air throughout the structure – this façade is also covered with perforated panels that rotate to control daylighting as well as provide unobstructed views across the city. The thin-section organization of the tower facilitates passive cooling and ventilation throughout the structure, taking advantage of ambient air temperatures and air currents around the building and directing them via building elements, including the perforated skin, that direct the deep penetration and circulation of outside air.

Altogether, the net result of these strategies is to realize a 26% reduction in lighting energy and a 39% reduction in mechanical systems energy compared to average GSA building usage.

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