A Taste of the Bay Area’s Green Architecture

A USGBC-sponsored tour highlighted the best forward-looking buildings to be found in and around San Francisco.

Boucher Grygier Shipping Container House, Innovation and Transition tour

Courtesy Jan Grygier

From giant redwoods to adaptive reuse, San Francisco is chock full of memorable sights – green buildings and beyond. At USGBC’s annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, held in San Francisco this November, you can sample from two dozen tours of buildings (and much more), specially curated by San Fran insiders.

Every year, the Greenbuild “host committee” of volunteers from USGBC’s regional chapters organizes a series of tours to help visitors learn more about the community and the buildings and the culture of each host locale. This year’s lineup is really impressive. The tour committee, led by Lindsay Baker (Green Team Consultant at Mary Davidge Associates) and Mark Palmer (Green Building Coordinator at City and County of San Francisco), has handpicked 12 half-day tours on Friday and Saturday, plus 12 full-day tours on Saturday.


McGee Salvage House, Berkeley Walking Tour

Courtesy Leger Wanaselja Architecture

How did they do it? The criteria for setting up the tours included a focus on educational content, the operational issues, showcasing the Bay Area, showing off unique approaches to green buildings, and making sure that the tours would be fun and interactive. The 25-person committee received a whopping 170 submissions and then scored and grouped them.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure that there are tours that will appeal to all levels—newbies and those who want to ‘dork out’ about numbers and performance with engineers,” says Baker. “We also wanted to be sure that there would be tours that would appeal to a variety of sectors.”

Mark Palmer notes that it was also important to think about buildings that are not usually available for public visitation, because those would appeal to locals as well as visitors.

What are their faves? That’s not a fair question, but there are a couple of shout-outs:


David Brower Center, Berkeley Walking Tour

Courtesy Tim Griffith

Baker: “I’m psyched about the Green Historic Office Preservation tour. It’s a fantastic group of buildings—renovated structures in San Francisco and Oakland. To me, adaptive reuse is a really important area, so I think this is important. It may not be as glamorous as the wineries, but I think there are a great many lessons to be learned from those spaces.”


Cavallo Point

Courtesy Kodiak Greenwood

Palmer: “The ‘Walk in the Woods’ tour, exploring the redwoods in Santa Cruz! Who doesn’t want to take this tour? It’s not a building, but it’s an important part of our place, to be sure. Another one that comes to mind is the “Life North of the Golden Gate” tour, which includes two residential properties that would not normally be something you could see, plus Marin Country Day School. It’s a fun mix.”


Cavallo Point interior

Courtesy Kodiak Greenwood

As Baker points out, it’s a bit of embarrassment of riches. “Because the area is so full of fantastic examples of sustainable design, we were able to handpick some remarkable destinations: not just tours of buildings that are solid green examples (though we have those, too). We tried to curate and cultivate a real mix here. We’re lucky to be able to do this here in this community.”

This blog is syndicated with the Greenbuild site, which we recommend you visit to learn more.

Kira Gould is director of communications with William McDonough + Partners and co-author of Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design (Ecotone Publishing 2007).

Categories: Sustainability