Some of the AIA San Francisco Home Tours took us to parts of this city by the bay that are changing so rapidly, they are barely recognizable. The much-anticipated residential development, Arterra High-Rise, is one such spanking new project. The building is in what is part of a larger, 300-acre development known as Mission Bay. This part of San Francisco, along the south waterfront is built almost entirely on fill and represents the residual economic effects of the late 1990s ‘dot-com boom’, much like the mid 1880s gold rush led to the rapid development of what is now the Financial District in San Francisco.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

The Arterra Project was designed by Kwan Henmi Architecture/Planning, Inc. and developed by Intracorp San Francisco. The firms worked together to reach LEED-NC certification by the USGBC. It is estimated that about 40 blocks of new construction will fill the urbanscape of this part of San Francisco in the coming decade. Leading the pack, Arterra offers a plethora of green building attributes and is one of the first high rises in San Francisco to become LEED Certified.

The “greenness” of Arterra pops out throughout the project and can be seen in the many environmentally-sound materials used in the building. The colorful exterior cladding surrounds deep recessed windows, creating a visual play of light as the sun moves across the façade. The Trespa Rainscreen exterior skin allows moisture to escape the skin as swiftly as it enters, and is made of resin and recycled paper.

Upon entering the building, I was immediately taken by the inviting and sophisticated lobby that incorporates Enviroglas recycled glass, cork flooring, and FSC-certified wood into the palette. Throughout the building other green materials, such as bamboo for the kitchen floors, are paired with rich shades of color on the walls and high-end furnishings.

Building a high-rise is no small feat, and the building’s location on a brownfield infill site in a seismic zone 4 beckons even greater attention. In fact, construction of the foundation for the Arterra project required 550 200-foot-deep piles over its 3.2 acre site. The concrete decks and columns have a high level of fly ash, which is the post-industrial bi-product of coal production. Fly ash is used as a replacement in the cement content of concrete, thus cutting down on the most greenhouse gas-emitting ingredient of concrete.

Evidence of building construction still exists in the soon-to-be finished project, but what is notably missing are the usually harsh construction fumes I have experienced on other construction sites. That is because building to LEED standards means specifying materials which have ‘low or no VOCs’, such as cork, linoleum, or Green Seal certified paints and laminates.

Three towers, including a 16-story high-rise, a 9-story mid-rise, and a 6-story low rise comprise 269 units of housing, a gym, community room, guest suites, and parking space designed for the Zipcar program. A variety of public and private outdoor spaces can be found at street level and in the rooftop level gardens. The storm water filtration system utilizes a Continuous Deflective Separation (CDS) Unit to further mitigate the impact of the site on San Francisco’s sewage system.

Arterra residences are currently being sold as construction wraps up. In fact, if you purchase a unit on the 6th floor, like the one I toured, you could get a lesson in high-rise construction just by gazing out the window.

+ Kwan/Henmi Architects

+ SF Architecture Critic sizes up Arterra