Historic San Francisco Federal Building Earns Top Marks in Sustainability

50 United Nations Plaza Awarded LEED Platinum Rating

SAN FRANCISCO – Today the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced the newly-renovated Federal Building at 50 United Nations Plaza (50 UNP) in San Francisco is meeting top industry benchmarks by reducing energy and water consumption, cutting utility costs and easing its overall impact on the environment. 50 UNP, with its high performance green building features, has earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification for New Construction (NC) and joins the ranks of only a few historic federal properties to receive this designation. The certification highlights GSA’s ongoing commitment to environmental conservation and efficient building operations that reduce operating costs and save taxpayer dollars.

LEED Platinum is the highest sustainability measure a facility can attain under the USGBC’s certification standards. Third party certification systems, like LEED, help to verify a building’s performance and determine its compliance with federal green building requirements contained in statute and executive orders.  LEED NC addresses design and construction activities for both new buildings and major renovations of existing buildings. This includes major HVAC improvements, significant building envelope modifications and major interior rehabilitation.

Constructed in 1936, 50 UNP served 74 years without a major renovation and survived a catastrophic earthquake. The recent renovation project had an ambitious agenda for the treatment of a historical facility, sustainability, and modern workspace planning. It incorporated a complete seismic upgrade and new foundation, building systems upgrades, innovative workplace design, and energy efficient upgrades while remaining sensitive historic preservation rehabilitation.

Sustainable Design Features:

  • Incorporates energy-efficient technologies to reduce energy use by 30 percent annually
  • Built before the advent of air-conditioning, 50 UNP takes advantage of free natural resources such as abundant daylight and fresh air
  • Building’s unique “D” shape with central courtyard ensures workspaces are within 20 feet of daylight
  • Mixed mode ventilation system relies on operable windows for thermal conditioning and ventilation for perimeter spaces, and 100 percent outside air units for interior spaces
  • Re-use of existing radiators with modern controls makes the heating system more efficient
  • Controls, coupled with ceiling fans and operable windows, allow tenants to customize their environment taking full advantage of this adaptive comfort range to reduce energy usage
  • Energy efficient office lighting equipped with daylight/occupancy sensors and electronic dimming ballasts provides adjustable levels of light to match the prevailing conditions and reduces electric lighting loads by more than 50 percent
  • Green roof design decreases storm-water runoff by 75 percent, reduces the urban heat island effect, and provides a safe haven for bird, butterfly and insect populations
  • Roof mounted 96-panel photovoltaic solar array provides clean power for building’s use
  • Water efficient plumbing fixtures and a drip irrigation system provide for 30 percent indoor water reduction and 50 percent outdoor water reduction
  • 98 percent of the existing walls, floors and roof were reused, as well as 52 percent of the building’s interior, non-structural elements


  • 2012 EPA Designed to Earn Energy Star Challenge
  • 2014 GSA Public Buildings Service Commissioner Award
  • 2014 GSA Design Excellence Award
  • 2014 Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) Northern California Chapter Project Achievement Award

Built in 1936 and designed by Arthur Brown, Jr. who also designed such San Francisco landmarks as Coit Tower, the Opera House and the War Memorial, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a contributor to the San Francisco Civic Center National Historic Landmark District. The Federal Building at 50 UNP was completely renovated between 2010 and 2013 with HKS, Inc., Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company, Jacobs, and AECOM. It now provides high-quality office space for GSA’s Pacific Rim Regional headquarters. Visit GSA.gov  for photos of the federal building.

Pacific Rim Regional Administrator Ruth Cox weighs in:
“50 UNP serves as an example of GSA’s commitment to sustainability. The agency, with its long history as a steward of federal facilities, is setting the standard for sustainable, high-performance workplaces that improve productivity, revitalize communities, encourage environmental responsibility and promote proactive decision making with respect to energy use.”

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News