San Francisco Federal Building

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San Francisco Federal Building
San Francisco Federal Building.jpg
The federal building is the tall structure at right and the lower structure in the left foreground which frame a plaza
San Francisco Federal Building is located in San Francisco
San Francisco Federal Building
Location within San Francisco
San Francisco Federal Building is located in California
San Francisco Federal Building
San Francisco Federal Building (California)
San Francisco Federal Building is located in the United States
San Francisco Federal Building
San Francisco Federal Building (the United States)
General information
TypeGovernment offices
Architectural styleDeconstructivism
Location90 Seventh Street
San Francisco, California
Coordinates37°46′45″N 122°24′43″W / 37.77917°N 122.41194°W / 37.77917; -122.41194Coordinates: 37°46′45″N 122°24′43″W / 37.77917°N 122.41194°W / 37.77917; -122.41194
Construction started2003
CostUS$144 million
Roof71.3 m (234 ft)
Technical details
Floor count18
Floor area56,206 m2 (605,000 sq ft)
Design and construction
ArchitectThom Mayne of Morphosis
DeveloperU.S. General Services Administration
Main contractorHunt Construction Group
Webcor Builders

The San Francisco Federal Building is an 18-story, 71.3 m (234 ft) building at 90 7th Street on the corner of Mission and 7th streets in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco, California. The building was designed by the Morphosis architectural firm, as a supplement to the Phillip Burton Federal Building at 450 Golden Gate Avenue. Thom Mayne of Morphosis designed the building using a juxtaposition of gray concrete walls, perforated metal panels, and custom, faceted wood ceilings.[5] The building was expected to be completed in 2005, but construction issues and delays pushed the project completion to 2007.

The building was designed to be a 'green' building consuming less than half the power of a standard office tower—an indication of how building design can help slash emissions of greenhouse gases. Utilizing natural light to illuminate 80% of the building helped it achieve worldwide recognition as the first Federal Building to be certified under the USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria.[6] Additionally, it was the first naturally ventilated office building on the west coast since the advent of air conditioning.[7]

The building features some elevators which stop on every third floor to promote employee interaction and health. Users of the building exit the elevators and walk either up or down one floor via stairs. There are, however, also elevators which stop on every floor for users unable or unwilling to negotiate stairs.


The construction budget and cost for the building was $144 million.[8] The architect's decision to eliminate the usual HVAC system saved $11 million in construction costs.[9] At the same time, the design's nonfunctional use of extended, folded metal sunshading at ground level, which in the opinion of some are purely for aesthetic effect, and require extensive galvanized steel bracing, added millions in materials and fabrication costs back into the project.[8]

Morphosis' design was selected at least partly because of its projected energy efficiency; a requirement of the GSA's brief. At the time of design, the GSA did not mandate LEED certification, and the building was not evaluated for LEED certification until after construction. The building then failed to meet a significant level of LEED certification. Mayne said "I wasn't arrogant, but I was confident — I just assumed we had the platinum (the highest LEED) rating. All of a sudden we went through LEED and it wasn't working." In fact, the building only received silver LEED qualifications; two steps below platinum.[10]

The building has been criticized as being dysfunctional for its employees. According to an employee interviewed by, "Workers seek to relieve the heat by opening windows, which not only sends papers flying, but, depending on their proximity to the opening, makes creating a stable temperature for all workers near impossible... some employees must use umbrellas to keep the sun out of their cubicles."[10]

Mayne opined that the Federal government should be a model in the promotion of worker health and exercise. This led Morphosis to specify passenger elevators that stop only at every third floor, requiring many employees and visitors to then walk up or down one or two flights of stairs to reach their destinations. There are also elevators for the disabled that stop at each floor, but it has become commonly used by the able-bodied as well, causing overcrowding.[10]

Unlike most large government office buildings, the Federal Building does not have its own cafeteria inside the building. The cafeteria function was instead placed just outside the building on the public plaza, and was again due to the architect's belief that this would encourage employees to walk, interact, and increase worker health; a situation that seems to not be appreciated by some of the 2400 employees who work in the building.[10]

In 2010 the GSA commissioned a survey of employees in 22 federal buildings nationwide, to determine employee satisfaction with their workplaces. The San Francisco Federal Building was included in this study even though commissioning was still underway, and tenant improvements of some floors were not complete. The 22 buildings included in the study scored between a low of 13 and a high of 98% employee satisfaction. Seventeen of the 22 buildings scored above 50% employee satisfaction. While incorporating many green concepts more aggressively than other buildings, the lowest ranked building for employee satisfaction was the San Francisco Federal Building, with a rating of just 13%; the next-lowest was considered twice as satisfactory, at 26%. The San Francisco building scored well below the median in the categories of thermal comfort, lighting and acoustics.[11]


Detail of the building

The San Francisco Federal Building won a Design Award from the AIA San Francisco chapter in 2008. The award praised the buildings open spaces and environmentally friendly design.[12]

The building earned LEED Silver certification from USGBC.[13]

In June 2012, the San Francisco Federal Building was named the International The Outstanding Building of the Year (TOBY) in the government category. GSA was recognized by the commercial real estate industry for quality in commercial buildings and excellence in building management and operations.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "San Francisco Federal Building". CTBUH Skyscraper Center.
  2. ^ San Francisco Federal Building at Emporis
  3. ^ "San Francisco Federal Building". SkyscraperPage.
  4. ^ San Francisco Federal Building at Structurae
  5. ^ "2006 Construction Excellence Awards". Interior Construction. March–April 2007. p. 9.
  6. ^ Leetzow, Larry. "A Model of Excellence: San Francisco's LEED-Certified Federal Building". Magnaray® International, a division of World Institute of Lighting & Development.
  7. ^ Lloyd Alter (9 March 2007). "San Francisco Federal Building". TreeHugger. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  8. ^ a b Christopher Hawthorne (21 March 2007). "Green clashes with design in S.F. tower". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  9. ^ "U.S. General Services Administration San Francisco Federal Building" (PDF). Rocky Mountain Institute. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d Randy Shaw (3 March 2008). "San Francisco's Green Building Nightmare". BeyondCron. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  11. ^ Kim M. Fowler; Emily M. Rauch; Jordan W. Henderson; Angela R. Kora (June 2010). "Re-assessing Green Building Performance" (PDF). Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  12. ^ "Excellence in Architecture - Honor Award: San Francisco Federal Building". American Institute of Architects San Francisco. 2008. Archived from the original on 2011-06-28. Retrieved 15 August 2012.AIA 2008 San Francisco Design Awards
  13. ^ Dan Ashley (January 4, 2010). "Bay Area green buildings strive for LEED certification". ABC News. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  14. ^ Traci Madison (23 July 2012). "San Francisco Federal Building captures BOMA International TOBY Award". U.S. General Services Administration. Retrieved 15 August 2012.

External links[edit]