San Francisco — The San Francisco War Memorial Veterans Building, regarded as one of the finest examples of Beaux Arts architecture and civic design in the U.S., was recently awarded LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Thornton Tomasetti, the international engineering firm, provided LEED certification consulting to the City of San Francisco for the building as part of a $156-million seismic upgrade and modernization program.

Thornton Tomasetti provided sustainability consulting services and managed the LEED documentation process throughout the design and construction phases as well as coordinated the certification process with the USGBC.

Located in the San Francisco Civic Center Historic District, the 240,000-square-foot Veterans Building was completed in 1932. The upgrade project involved seismic, building systems, envelope, theatrical and interior improvements.

“This was a particularly challenging LEED project because it involved a major renovation of a landmark city-owned building. The building contained historic murals that required protection during the renovation. The products required to protect art exceed VOC guidelines, thereby challenging LEED standards,” said Joel Stout, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, O+M, ID+C, the Thornton Tomasetti vice president who led the consulting team. “To protect these historic murals, ventilation was introduced behind them and the face was treated with protective tissue and a plywood cover during renovations.”

The project incorporated new green and energy efficient construction materials and systems in addition to meeting stringent California energy requirements. LEED Silver certification was required by local code, but the City of San Francisco chose to pursue LEED Gold certification. Environmental improvements included the installation of new efficient HVAC equipment, roof system and skylight replacement with insulated glazing, and the installation of efficient lighting fixtures and controls. Water use efficiency was improved through high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, and more than 92 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills.

The original roof/skylight detail was redesigned to correct leakage, yet retain its historic profile. Artisans also restored or replicated intricate plaster cornices, paneled doors, gilding and light fixtures.

The Veterans Building project modernized and preserved the structure, so that it may continue to serve veterans, the arts and the public, as well as strengthen the cultural vitality of the San Francisco Civic Center, for future generations. Studies had deemed the building likely to sustain significant damage in an earthquake, so the City of San Francisco invested in a comprehensive renovation to improve primary systems and functionality, while conserving interior spaces.

Brian Wong Photography

Thornton Tomasetti also served as LEED consultant for the San Francisco Opera’s Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, which occupies the building’s fourth floor. The space was renovated in a separate $21 million project that is also pursuing LEED Gold certification, which is currently pending final review.

When it comes to sustainability, Thornton Tomasetti is a worldwide leader in Net Zero, LEED and WELL certification consulting and design that aims to set the standards for sustainability and corporate responsibility. In 2010, the company was the first predominantly structural engineering firm to join the American Institute of Architects 2030 Commitment, which has the ultimate goal of achieving carbon-neutral buildings by 2030. Recognizing that buildings are the largest single contributor of greenhouse gases, the firm encourages architects and engineers to exercise leadership in their professions and to work toward sustainable, energy-efficient building designs.

In 2013, Thornton Tomasetti was one of the first engineering firms to sign the Climate Declaration, a call by more than 1,500 American businesses asking the federal government to take action on climate change. The declaration is sponsored by Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), a project of Ceres.

Thornton Tomasetti’s San Francisco office at 650 California Street, a 34- story, LEED Gold building in the Financial District, is certified Platinum under LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED CI) v4, the latest and most stringent USGBC rating system. The project was one of only 25 LEED CI projects worldwide that participated in the v4 beta program, and the first commercial interiors project to achieve LEED v4 Platinum certification in the United States.

“We believe in practicing what we preach, and have set a goal to achieve LEED Gold or higher certification for all of our offices worldwide when moving or undertaking significant renovations to reduce energy use by approximately 30 percent,” added Mr. Stout. “Since making these commitments, we have achieved a 43 percent reduction in embodied carbon in our structural projects, and are well on our way to meeting our goal of reducing fossil fuel use in our buildings by 70 percent by next year and achieving carbon-neutral business operations by 2030.”