“I felt we had a lot of dialogue about what the Top Ten Plus Award should be about, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to look at how buildings continue to perform over time as you look at measurement verification.

Two things rose to the top: One was creating a compelling model for future development, and the other was adapting to lessons learned as you see how buildings are being lived in. The winner is really a good example of both of those. It provides a compelling model for how these principles can be embedded in the kind of project that we might stumble across in everyday life, and not something that is exclusively a special destination. But also, there’s a really good model here for how they’re learning from the building and changing course over time in waste reduction, how they are recycling, and also in how they’re learning about the use of the native plants on site.” —Lance Hosey, AIA, RTKL Associates

“One of the other things that was attractive to us was the fact that there’s sort of a stigma to a building that’s responsible in terms of what it looks like and what it should feel like. This is a building that basically is just really, really well done from a design standpoint. And just by using materials and massing, ventilation, and daylighting in a way that creates great design, they create this incredibly efficient facility which doesn’t scream of the standard stigma of what a responsible building is. … We really like the fact that this is just a wonderful building that also performed very well and seems to enhance the quality of life for those that live, work, or visit there.” —Rod Kruse, FAIA, BNIM Architects


Be open to rethinking who gets windows. The design places the restaurant’s kitchen along a wall of windows instead of a banquet room. “In a traditional layout, we’d have done the opposite. Inverting it works quite well,” Aidlin says. “And there’s this special quality you can get from lack of light, just as you can get it from light. It’s about how you set up that contrast and how to make it meaningful.”

Balance seclusion and openness. The decision to keep the new outdoor courtyard mostly walled off from the street contradicted the realtor’s recommendation. “Fortunately the restaurant agreed with us: that it was a private oasis for the community, a hidden garden,” Aidlin says. “You can walk down the street and you’re enticed by these small apertures. It’s counterintuitive, but if you create a sense of discovery, it oftentimes can be more powerful.”

Budget for the unexpected. Matarozzi estimates that 10 percent of the budget went to items that weren’t cost effective but that scored LEED points. He cites $10,000 spent on walk-off mats—depressions in the floor covered with grating at entrances and exits meant to reduce cleaning expenses by trapping shoe dirt. “Ninety percent we would do anyway,” Matarozzi explains. “But if I had it to do over again, I probably would have done without the LEED designation.”


Like its surrounding SoMa (South of Market) neighborhood in San Francisco, 355 11th Street is an eye-catching hybrid of old and new. And in the three years since this formerly derelict but National Register–listed plumbing warehouse was renovated into a LEED-NC Gold–certified mixed-use office building and LEED-CI Platinum–certified restaurant, it has become a community magnet. These attributes, among many others, garnered the project an AIA COTE Top Ten Green Project designation in 2010 and, this year, the inaugural 2013 AIA COTE Plus award.

Initially, the 14,000-square-foot, three-story project was intended as a multitenant office building, anchored and developed by its general contractor, Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders. (Click here for more details on the plans in ECOSTRUCTURE’s original profile of the building in 2009.) The architects from Aidlin Darling Design proposed that the ground floor be outfitted for a restaurant rather than rented out as additional office space; it required a zoning code variance but has yielded both higher rent and greater social enhancement for the surrounding neighborhood. Aidlin Darling also convinced the client to transform half of the parking in front of the building into a private courtyard.

“One of my professors always said, ‘We’re architects. We’re responsible to our community,’ ” Joshua Aidlin, AIA, partner at Aidlin Darling Design explains. “We can be guides toward responsible development. Clients are usually just dealing with their specific program. If you can open their eyes to opportunities, that’s exciting. Whenever we take on a new project now, we can’t stop seeing the opportunity of the bigger picture.”

With its rooftop divided between solar panels and green-roof plantings, as well as having a perforated zinc façade that shades the building from heat gain and natural ventilation throughout, the expectations were high: for 355 11th Street building to be 79 percent more efficient than code. In 2011, however, the building was 94 percent better, with 103.3 percent of the offices’ energy needs provided by the panels. The extra 3.3 percent is fed back into the grid. The restaurant performed 69 percent more efficiently than what is stipulated by code.

The zinc façade was in part a response to a city design-review requirement. It stated that no new visible windows could be added to the east and west façades in order to preserve the original early-20th-century structure’s monolithic, industrial character. But with cross ventilation crucial, the design instead adds disguised new openings rather than eliminating them. With perforations varying from 1/16 to 1 inch, the façade shades the hottest corner of the building but is still transparent enough for occupants to easily see outside. And while staff has increased by 40 people over the past three years, there has been only a 17 percent turnover rate. The 65 percent of employees who commute by bicycle or mass-transit has surpassed the previous 40 percentestimated. “We feel like the building is an expression of our philosophy,” Matarozzi Pelsinger partner Dan Matarozzi explains.

Reclaimed materials, particularly wood, give the interior its charm, including a hull in the restaurant made from reclaimed whiskey oak barrels extending through the main dining level, as well as bar and tabletops made from reclaimed oak barn beams. Old or new, all major building components were fabricated on site or within a 15-mile radius. “It’s a lot about creative problem solving,” Aidlin says of the team. “It’s probably the most pure example we have in our office of collaboration yielding profound results.”

Building gross floor area: 14,000 square feet 
Estimated percent of occupants using public transit, cycling, or walking: 65 
Percent of views to the outdoors: 100 
Percent of spaces within 15 feet of an operable window: 100 
Percent reduction of regulated potable water: 23 
Potable water used for irrigation: No 
Percent of rainwater from maximum anticipated 24-hour, two-year storm event that can be managed on site: 57 
Total EUI (kBtu per square foot per year): 10 
Net EUI (kBtu per square foot per year): 1 
Percent reduction from national average EUI for building type: 94 
Third-party rating: LEED-NC Gold, LEED-CI Platinum

Data provided by Aidlin Darling Design via AIA COTE Top Ten entry documents.

Click on the video below to learn more about the COTE Top Ten Plus designation. Click here to read a profile of the firm by our sister publication, Residential Architect.

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