2010 CH+D Award for Sustainable Architecture: Joshua Aidlin and David Darling

San Francisco’s gritty SoMa neighborhood is a likely backdrop for redemption stories of all sorts, but this one, about an abandoned turn-of-the-century industrial factory turned model of sustainability (culminating with an impressive LEED Gold certification), is particularly inspiring. The renovated multiuse structure by local architecture firm Aidlin Darling Design, in collaboration with the building’s owners, Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders, satisfies a long checklist of now-standard green-design elements (fleets of solar panels, living roof, radiant heat, bamboo flooring, low-VOC paints and so forth). But it’s the building’s place on the National Historic Register that inspired the most impressive feature of all: a simple skin of corrugated zinc, perforated with thousands of small holes to allow daylight and ventilation into the building (via the operable windows inserted into the old facade).

“The 1912 structure was completely derelict, but the city required us to maintain the monolithic quality of its front facade,” says Joshua Aidlin, who, along with project architect Shane Curnyn, designed the innovative screen to echo the original corrugated-metal exterior. “I still think it’s amazing how low-tech the skin is, yet it solves some major issues in a quiet, efficient way,” says Aidlin.

Inside the building, the Matarozzi Pelsinger offices on the second floor feature the original Douglas fir ceiling beams, which impart a warm rusticity to the space. The leased offices on the top floor offer shaded views from a street-facing conference room through the perforated zinc skin, and more alfresco meeting spaces on the landscaped roof deck. Adding another layer to the very eco-minded idea of sharing space, an adjoining organic restaurant, Bar Agricole, is currently under construction in the area formerly used as a parking lot.

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