City on a Hill

City on a Hill

Courtesy City of San Francisco

Claiming to be the first city to do so, San Francisco’s government is proposing to establish its civic center neighborhood as a “Sustainable Resource District.” On September 24 at the Clinton Global Initiative, Mayor Gavin Newsom unveiled plans to pursue energy and water conservation strategies over the next three years for seven buildings and public spaces in the area, including City Hall and the Civic Center Plaza they surround.

The San Francisco-based Architecture firm KMD, formerly Kaplan, McLaughlin and Diaz, provided pro-bono consulting services to develop an overall framework of green initiatives. The scheme calls for a variety of potential energy conservation strategies, which may include ground source heat pumps, alternative fuels, photovoltaic panels, and wind turbines. Administered by and funded with money from the City’s Public Utilities Commission, supporting engineering has been provided by a team of firms, including Omaha-based HDR for lighting evaluation, the Oakland-based kW Engineers for HVAC assessments, and the Dublin- and California-based Intergy Corporation with the Massachusetts-based Metcalf and Eddy to evaluate water conservation and waste water management.

Several of the district’s initiatives compare favorably with LEED standards. The plan’s goal of an 80 percent water-use reduction in the area is double the LEED maximum in that category. Other goals, all close to LEED guidelines, include a 45 percent reduction in wastewater discharge, meeting 35 percent of peak power demand by renewable energy, and a 33 percent overall reduction in energy consumption. While the initiatives are not currently registered as a LEED project, the city expects to examine its potential compliance following completion of the evaluation process.

According to the Clinton Global Initiative more than 30 states, 600 cities, and 500 universities in the United States are developing comprehensive action plans to reduce heat-trapping gases. San Francisco’s plan aims to reduce the district’s annual carbon footprint by some 2,225 tons, equivalent to the greenhouse emissions of 1,286 San Francisco households. Evidence of the greening of the Civic Center should be visible beginning in late 2009, when the city hopes to complete the early phases of implementation.

Renderings published on Mayor Newsom’s website suggest rooftop photovoltaic arrays on several prominent civic center buildings. Whether viewed by tourists, residents, or official visitors to San Francisco’s Civic Center, the visible evidence of this greening initiative will further the mayor’s efforts to lead by example in the city’s overall goals for energy efficiency, which also include requiring new commercial buildings to employ solar energy methods; streamlining the installation of solar technologies in private homes; creating energy efficiency plans for the city’s major institutions, such as the airport, libraries, and municipal railways; and making a commitment to power all government buildings with renewable resources by 2010.