As part of the San Francisco Public Library’s Branch Library Improvement Program, Tom Eliot Fisch and Paulett Taggart Architects renovated the historic Golden Gate Valley Branch Library in the city’s Cow Hollow neighborhood. Completed in 1918 as a Carnegie library, the two-level brick and terra cotta Beaux-Arts structure was designed by Ernest Coxhead in the shape of a basilica. The project had to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation & Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act while targeting Silver certification or greater under the LEED for Commercial Interiors rating system. The project has exceeded its sustainability goal by achieving LEED Gold certification.
The most significant challenge was to provide access for people with disabilities while maintaining the 7,400-square-foot structure’s historic integrity. Rather than add a long ramp to the main entrance, which would distract from the original facade, the design team created a new, small modern addition in the existing courtyard toward the building’s back corner. An aluminum and glass box, this addition provides elevator access to both levels of the library and clearly reads as contemporary while complementing the historic architecture. The existing building’s southwest corner is showcased as an interior element within the two-story addition, celebrating the combination of old and new.
To reduce solar heat gain, windows on the south-facing facade to the rear were replaced with high-performance glazing, while historic windows on the other three sides were restored and cleaned. Solar panels provide about 25 percent of the building’s power. A new high-efficiency mechanical system ties into the existing radiant system. Other resource-saving elements include specification of energy-efficient lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures, restoration of original furniture, and new linoleum flooring.
Previously, the main level reading room was lit with harsh fluorescents. New pendants provide ambient lighting, while a new metal valance along the perimeter conceals a strip fluorescent that washes the walls with light. Daylight sensors dim these fixtures depending on the amount of natural light available. New lighting also brightens the formerly dark basement program room, which was leveled to eliminate a flight of stairs that broke up the space. The renovation of the basement also added a sink and ADA-accessible bathrooms while increasing the amount of storage space.
Staff support areas at the back of the building were reorganized to make them more functional. Adding a staircase at the new entry allowed for the removal of an existing stair to make more room for the support areas and provide an office for the branch manager.
The project also involved seismic strengthening and creation of a new designated teen area separate from the main reading room.
+ Project facts
Golden Gate Valley Branch Library
Architect: Tom Eliot Fisch/Paulett Taggart Architects a joint venture
Bobbie Fisch, CID, LEED AP
Paulett Taggart, FAIA, LEED AP
Todd Afflerbaugh, AIA
Lara Kaufmann, AIA, LEED AP
Location: 1801 Green Street, San Francisco, CA 94123
Client: Branch Library Improvement Program, San Francisco Public Library
Gross Square Footage: 7,432 gsf
Site Area: 6,240 sf
Construction Cost: $3.5 million
Contractor: Fine Line Construction
Architectural Resources Group (Historic Preservation)
SOHA (Structural Engineers)
Timmons Design Engineers (Mechanical Engineers)
C&N Engineers (Mechanical/Plumbing Engineers)
Architecture & Light (Lighting Design)
Charles M Salter Associates Inc. (Acoustic Engineers)
Professional Roof Inspection Service, LLC (Waterproofing Consultant)
Kate Keating Associates, Inc (Environmental Graphics)
GLS Landscape Architects (Landscape Design)
Enovity, Inc. (Building Commissioning)
Metal Panels – Alumawall
Storefront – US Aluminum
Terra Cotta replacement – Gladding McBean & Co.
AIA San Francisco Chapter 2012 Honor Award for Historic Preservation
AIA California Council 2012 Honor Award for Architecture
California Preservation Foundation 2012 Honor Award for Rehabilitation
LEED Gold – CI
Photographer: Bruce Damonte