355 11th Street
New Skin Reveals the Past: A beer warehouse in San Francisco’s South of Market area finds new life as a mixed-use building without forsaking its industrial heritage.
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The Grateful Dead weren’t thinking of 355 Eleventh Street when they sang, “What a long, strange trip it’s been,” but their words evoke the San Francisco building’s checkered history. Built around 1912 as a bottle-storage facility for the adjacent Jackson Brewery, the 14,000-square-foot structure hit the skids as the surrounding South of Market (SoMa) area became increasingly rundown in the 1970s and ‘80s. Today, though, it stands as a poster child for greening our cities’ industrial neighborhoods and is San Francisco’s first LEED-NC Gold-certified building.
“The building was an absolute wreck when we found it,” states Dan Pelsinger, whose company Matarozzi/Pelsinger Builders bought 355 Eleventh, served as general contractor for the renovation project, and moved its offices to the building’s second floor. “But we fell in love with its bones,” he says, referring to its impressive timber frame and concrete foundation.
The building’s skin, however, held the key to transforming 355 Eleventh into a low-tech-yet-innovative example of green design and construction. By replacing its old corrugated-metal panels (which contained lead) with new zinc ones that are perforated and set in front of the windows (instead of being flush), the architects at
Aidlin Darling Design created a “breathable” envelope. To add texture to the new wrapping and create different levels of transparency, the design team varied the size of the perforations and used solid panels where there are no windows. Ranging from 20 to 50 percent transparent, the perforated panels filter sunlight, reduce solar loads, and—because they’re set in front of operable windows—create a pocket of tempered air to be circulated inside.
As part of the Jackson Brewery complex, 355 Eleventh is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So even though the building had never been much of a beauty on the outside, Aidlin Darling had to preserve or repair original fenestration on its north and south (side) facades and convince city officials that the new west (front) façade respected its history. Steel sleeves projecting beyond glazed openings on the main elevation recall the placement of the original door and windows, alluding to the building’s past. And the architects’ use of industrial materials such as corrugated zinc and rolled steel honor the building’s working-class roots.
“From the beginning, we asked ourselves, ‘What should be preserved?’” recalls Joshua Aidlin, AIA, a partner at Aidlin Darling Design. “The building has a beautiful concrete foundation and a beautiful Douglas-fir, post-and-beam structure. So our challenge was to design around these great elements.” The old structure, though, needed seismic retrofitting, which involved sinking 78 new steel piers underneath the building and adding steel Z braces.
Since Matarozzi/Pelsinger sees green construction as essential to its mission, its new headquarters needed to embody those values. So the building—which accommodates the builder’s offices on the second floor, offices for a tenant on the third floor, and a restaurant on the ground floor—employs a range of sustainable strategies in addition to retaining 75 percent of the building’s original fabric. Not only is the entire building naturally ventilated, but a 30kW solar array on the roof provides 79 percent of its electrical power. (A wireless onnection from the PVs to computers inside allow Matarozzi/Pelsinger to monitor energy performance in real time.) A green roof on the two-story portion of the building housing the restaurant insulates that part of the project and filters stormwater. Overall, areas planted with native/adapted species, which require no irrigation after a one-year establishment period, cover more than 20 percent of the project’s total site.
Wherever possible, the architects and builder used recycled materials. So 50 percent of the steel is recycled and some of the interior finishes and furniture are made from wood salvaged when workers cut through the building’s timber frame to create a two-story entry lobby. They also specified environmentally friendly materials such as bamboo flooring, concrete (for interior floors and exterior hardscape) with 20 percent fly-ash instead of Portland cement, and ceramic-based pavers that are porous so they allow stormwater to seep into the ground. All paints and coating are low-VOC and most are 100 percent acrylic. For countertops inside the building, the architects used a special concrete mixture with crushed recycled glass as aggregate.
Inside the building, the architects sandblasted the old timber frame, bringing out its warmth and strength. To keep air circulating throughout the interiors, they installed 18-inch-high clerestory windows on walls separating conference rooms and private offices from open work areas.
Pilsinger estimates the project cost an extra $200,000 to make it LEED Gold. But the city expedited approvals by 6 months due to the project’s environmental goals, saving his company $120,000 in carrying costs. And reduced energy usage means the LEED efforts will pay for themselves in just a few years.
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