Adaptive reuse of existing buildings is one of the best ways to produce a truly green building. The old US Mint in San Francisco had been sitting vacant since 1995, but is now finding new life as a cultural hub for San Francisco thanks to a wonderful green renovation by HOK. This is an excellent development in the history of a building that survived the 1906 Great Earthquake. The Mint will serve as a major cultural center for San Francisco with mixed uses including a SF Bay Area history museum, an interactive learning center, a visitor information center, restaurants, retail, and a green roof garden.
Originally constructed in 1874, the San Francisco building was the second branch of the United States Mint. The building was designed by Alfred Mullet, who used a ‘floating’ foundation design which enabled the building to survive the earthquake, an approach which is still used to this day.
One strategy being used by the designers is “letting the building do what it was designed to do.” For example, existing passive ventilation is not closed down — instead, the renovations are designed to work with the existing building. The new glass roof over the courtyard does not seal off the courtyard, but rather serves to supplement the passive ventilation systems without completely closing in the building. It also serves to provide additional rainwater catchment area.
This strategy also preserves the building’s existing details, rather than directly juxtaposing new construction with the existing building in ways that damage its historic character. In addition to passive ventilation, the building also takes advantage of natural daylight and the structures high thermal mass. The project is expected to be completed in 2013.