Sustainability and Simplicity
January 22, 2010

As students rushed home for the day, SPUR members filtered in for a tour of the San Francisco Friends School.  Built in 1906 after the earthquake and fire, the building housed Levi Strauss & Co. until 2002.  Fundraising for the Friends School began in 2006, and classes commenced in September of 2008.  Peter Pfau and Kami Kincaid of Pfau Long Architecture explained their process of renovation.  With general contractor Plant Construction Company, the team designed the school to preserve the light, open feeling of the historic space, and honored the school’s mission with close attention to sustainability and simplicity. 

ground floor

thermal towers The building is naturally ventilated with four thermal towers.  Sunlight enters through the glass to charge the heating plates; sensors throughout the building tell the vents to open and shut.  The white roof reflects heat to control the temperature in warm weather, and will eventually contain solar panels.  Last April the school was chosen by the American Institute of Architects and Gavin Newsom as one of the Top Ten Greenest Buildings in the city.












sffs hallway The original factory floor remains on the second story.  During the Depression, Levi Strauss & Co. kept employees on payroll by building the maple floors.  The stains and scuffs of years as a working factory remain in place. “The contractors wanted to sand them down,” Pfau says, “but I said no way. This way the history is alive in the building.”  One coat of sealer and wax preserved the floors, including every mark of the building’s past.











The second floor contains the meeting hall, where students of all ages can observe the Quaker tradition of silent reflection.  Benches in the meeting hall were made from the beams removed from the first floor during the seismic upgrade.  Nearly 50% of the materials used in renovation were previously part of the building.  After adding a theater and a second floor to the library, the building will total over 80,000 square feet with a 10,000 square foot playground and garden in the front of the school.  To see more photos of the tour, check out the Urbanists on flickr!

meeting hall

[Images: Colleen McHugh]

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