San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Headquarters: An insanely sustainable LEED Platinum building

I found this documentary on one of the most sustainable office buildings I’ve ever seen and (of course) it’s in San Francisco: 535 Golden Gate.

It only makes sense that it houses the city’s water, sewer and power department, and has  a Living Machine bioremediation / on-site water reclamation system.

Here are some of its specs:


525 Golden Gate consumes 32% less energy than similarly-sized office buildings.

  • An integrated, hybrid solar array and wind turbine installation can generate up to 227,000 kWh/year or 7% of the building’s energy needs
  • A state-of-the-art raised flooring system incorporates the building’s data and ventilation infrastructure and reduces heating, cooling and ventilation energy costs by 51%
  • Maximizing daylight harvesting saves electricity and minimizes artificial lighting
  • Lighting and work station equipment shutoff automatically after-hours

525 Golden Gate consumes 60% less water than similarly sized buildings.

  • One of the first buildings in the nation with onsite treatment of gray and black water
  • An onsite “Living Machine” reclaims and treats all of the building’s wastewater to satisfy 100% of the water demand for the building’s low-flow toilets and urinals
  • The “Living Machine” system treats 5,000 gallons of wastewater per day and reduces per person water consumption from 12 gallons (normal office building) to 5 gallons
  • The building’s 25,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system provides water for irrigation uses around the building.

“How Buildings Learn” A documentary on the evolution of buildings

Right–well, you may have noticed as of late I’ve been on an architecture kick for my consumable media consumption activities. I stumbled upon this 1997 BBC series that tracks how certain buildings adapt to future uses, and how others totally fail at future flexibility–most often the victims of egocentric architects and rigid expectations of future behavior of their users.

Above is the first episode, “Flow” which gives an introduction to presenter Stewart Brand’s thesis, which is loosely that buildings need to learn and adapt. The rest in the series are embedded after the jump.

Stewart Brand is quite the character, as it turns out. From his official biography, we see he’s been part of things like the Whole Earth Catalog (one of the first hippie lifestyle companies), which aimed to be a content portal instead of a retailer (Directing potential consumers to stores, and not taking a cut for the service). He also hung out with Ken Kesey and publicly made known his admiration for experimentation with hallucinogens. Kind of neat that he settled upon architecture as a point of reference. He also snagged Brian Eno to provide the soundtrack. Pretty cool.

The series was based on my 1994 book, HOW BUILDINGS LEARN: What Happens After They’re Built. The book is still selling well and is used as a text in some college courses. Most of the 27 reviews on Amazon treat it as a book about system and software design, which tells me that architects are not as alert as computer people. But I knew that; that’s part of why I wrote the book.

Anybody is welcome to use anything from this series in any way they like. Please don’t bug me with requests for permission. Hack away. Do credit the BBC, who put considerable time and talent into the project.

Historic note: this was one of the first television productions made entirely in digital— shot digital, edited digital. The project wound up with not enough money, so digital was the workaround. The camera was so small that we seldom had to ask permission to shoot; everybody thought we were tourists. No film or sound crew. Everything technical on site was done by editors, writers, directors. That’s why the sound is a little sketchy, but there’s also some direct perception in the filming that is unusual.

[Read more…] CCO’s lecture — from a personal style to a multimillion dollar online business

Doing it right.

Susan Gregg Koger turned her fascination with vintage clothing collecting (as in, buying gorgeous, unique pieces from thrift stores in Florida, even if the clothes didn’t fit her personally) into an business known for its “vintage-inspired” designs made accessible to the masses, through an initial survey that showed them it was a need. Along the way, they crafted their own “democratic” social shopping experience that allows the customer to have a voice in the decision of the buyer and what actually becomes a piece for sale. She does name drop Threadless as a business model, but they are more private label oriented, from what I gather. She’s not a natural in front of an audience, which is endearing in its awkwardness, which is a good thing because it shows how genuine her idea and company are.

She also snagged a spot in Forbes’ “30 Under 30.” Hot.