Bay Area Metro Center — San Francsico, CA

Lightening the Impenetrable

Bay Area Metro Center Interior Lobby with Atrium, San Francisco
500,000 SF
Perkins + Will
Interior Architect
TEF Design
McCarthy Construction
Sustainable Benchmark
NCSEA Excellence in Structural Engineering Award
SEAONC Merit Award
Blake Marvin

The Bay Area Metro Center serves as the regional headquarters for four government entities dedicated to regional planning and policy: the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Association of Bay Area Governments and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.Originally built in 1942 as a World War II tank assembly plant, this heavy and robust reinforced concrete structure required a seismic retrofit for its change of use to commercial offices. The 500,000 SF building is stout with large floorplates and takes up half a city block. Holmes Structures worked closely with the client and design team to transform this seemingly impenetrable building structure into a bright and modernized workspace, complete with a 125-seat auditorium, meeting rooms, public forums, libraries and café.

The Bay Area Metro Center approached Holmes Structures seeking an alternative solution that would reduce the structural construction cost. Holmes Structures “lightened” the building by removing mass from the interior floor plates, creating a vast, striking atrium: less weight resulted in less structural additions, and also brought more daylight into the depths of the building. Removing voids along the perimeter also broke up the once monotonous facade with outdoor tree-wells and courtyards, bringing foliage to the upper levels. Performance-based engineering design utilized the building’s original strength while building upon it in key locations – shotcrete was selectively added to the inside of the exterior walls, increasing the building’s seismic capabilities. Holmes Structures, by the clients objectives, increased the building’s structural performance in excess of Life Safety.

Bay Area Metro Center Exterior Courtyard in Downtown San Francisco
Bay Area Metro Center Lobby with Attendant and People
Bay Area Metro Center Interior Conference Room with Wood Finishes

Holmes Structures, in collaboration with the client and design team, achieved a LEED Gold sustainable benchmark for the Bay Area Metro Center. Our efforts rehabilitated a massive building otherwise destined for landfill and successfully enabled a dramatic change of use for a building designed for such a specific World War II effort. Energy-reducing solar panels line the top of the atrium, and much of the distinguishing exposed wood accents were repurposed from local sources. The counters and finishes were recovered from the demolished, neighboring Trans Bay Terminal. The main stair incorporates wood repurposed wood from bumper rails that once protected the building walls from mail carts when it served as San Francisco’s main mail sorting facility.

Bay Area Metro Center Interior Staircase with Woof Finishes
Bay Area Metro Center San Francisco Exterior Treewell
Bay Area Metro Center Diagram of Structural Approach with Removal of Mass
Aerial View of Bay Area Metro Center Roof and Street Below

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