San Francisco War Memorial Veterans Building

San Francisco, CA

Market: Cultural




2017 Reconstruction Silver Award, BD+C
2016 Renovation Award of Merit, ENR California
2016 Reconstruction Bronze Award, BD+C
2016 Project of the Year, Historical Restoration/Preservation More Than $75M, APWA Northern California
2016 Preservation Design Award, California Preservation Foundation
2016 Outstanding Historical Renovation Project, American Society of Civil Engineers Region 9
2016 Excellence in Structural Engineering Award, Renovation/Rehabilitation, National Council of Structural Engineers Associations
2016 Design Award, Historic Preservation Special Commendation, American Institute of Architects San Francisco
2016 Award of Excellence for Historic Preservation, Structural Engineers Association of Northern California
San Francisco War Memorial Veterans Building
San Francisco War Memorial Opera House Herbst Theater
San Francisco War Memorial Veterans Building

The San Francisco War Memorial Veterans Building and adjacent Opera House are aesthetically-similar, Beaux-Arts structures commemorating U.S. veterans of World War I. The Veterans Building provides office and meeting space for veterans organizations and houses the 916-seat Herbst Theater. The theater, a cornerstone of San Francisco’s performing arts scene, showcases several hundred performances each year. In 1945, the Veterans Building and Opera House hosted ceremonies surrounding the signing of the United Nations Charter, and together, the two buildings are important contributors to the San Francisco Civic Center National Historic District.


Scope | Solutions


Until this project began in 2013, the building was continually used without substantial modification since opening in 1932. Working with the City’s Department of Public Works, SGH served as the prime design professional, structural engineer, and building enclosure engineer. We helped the City manage the project, including seismic upgrades, repairs, waterproofing, interior and MEP improvements, and conservation of interior spaces and the building enclosure.


In earlier studies, the City classified the steel-framed structure with terra-cotta-clad, concrete infill walls as having significant life hazards in a major earthquake. SGH used a performance-based approach to design seismic upgrades intended to protect life safety and assure damage will be repairable following probable earthquakes. Using nonlinear dynamic analysis, we designed new shear walls around the central core occupied by the Herbst Theater and new structural steel bracing across large skylights. We selected shear wall locations to assist with acoustic isolation of the Herbst Theater from the balance of the building.


SGH addressed pervasive water leakage from the metal roof and skylights by designing low-slope roof repairs, a new metal roof, and a new skylight system to match the original appearance with modern waterproofing and energy features. We also developed a restoration plan for terra-cotta- and steel-framed windows and specified in-kind replacement of cracked terra-cotta balustrades.

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