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SAN FRANCISCO-The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is spending $178 million to develop what may be the “greenest” headquarters office building in the US. Designed by Kaplan McLaughlin Diaz, the 12-story, 254,000-sf structure at 525 Golden gate Ave. will be a testament to water conservation, energy efficiency and reduced carbon footprint in commercial projects.

With regard to energy conservation, wind turbines on the roof, solar panels embedded in outer walls and a natural-cooling “thermal chimney” are some of the features that will allow the structure to supply 40% of its own energy needs. On windy, sunlit days, the building could go off the power grid completely by supplying 100% of its energy needs, officials predict.

The building also will employ advanced water-saving and water- recycling strategies. Faucet sensors, waterless urinals, and on-demand water heaters will cut use to five gallons per occupant per day, compared to average office-building use of 25 gallons per day. A grey-water wastewater recycling system enables reuse of water from faucets and sinks in the building’s toilets and the cooling system.

In addition, sun-filtering shades, new window glazing materials and other techniques will be used to bring natural light well into the interior of the building without much heat gain. Natural day lighting and views of greens capes are said to improve worker health and productivity.

“Our intent from the beginning was to create the most energy-efficient office building developed in an urban setting in the United States to date,” says PUC deputy general manager Anthony Irons. “What better organization [to do that] than a major municipal power and water agency… ?”

If successful, the project should gain the highest certification from the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, which is Platinum. In addition, the building is expected to exceed by 60% California’s recently-instituted Title 24 requirements for energy efficiency in new office buildings.

The project is slated to get underway in 2008. Officials say construction will be paid by selling surplus real estate holdings and by issuing bonds that will be covered by future rent savings as opposed to funds from customers.

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