San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco, California, USA

Photo Credits: Darius Kuzmickas

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Completed in 1915, nine years after a devastating earthquake, the steadfast San Francisco City Hall has been a constant participant in the city's historic events. Known as the People's Palace, the impressive dome, which is taller than the United States capitol dome, celebrates its centennial anniversary this year with an event at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting.

The venerable city hall is entering a new era of sustainability and forward-thinking technology. It is the oldest U.S. building to achieve LEED Platinum Certification for Building Operations and Maintenance in Existing Buildings. With significant water and energy savings, San Francisco City Hall hopes to set an example for other cities' civic centers.

Contributing to the LEED certification is the new LED lighting system from Philips Color Kinetics. This lighting system saves money and energy, and promotes civic engagement, all goals of the city hall façade lighting project.

The former lighting system consumed over 31,600 watts to light the façade. If the city wanted to use colored lighting to highlight a special event or cause, several people had to spend hours placing theatrical gels on each of the 220 fixtures.

The new Philips Color Kinetics lighting system uses a combination of ColorReach Powercore gen2, ColorBlast Powercore, and iW Blast Powercore fixtures to produce color-changing and dynamic white light. The fixtures work harmoniously to project high-quality light on the intricate details of the historic façade, bringing out its architectural details and helping the hall remain a center of activity.

With colleagues from Arup, lighting designer Toby Lewis contributed her precision and artistry to the final lighting design. They created a design that allows both white-light illumination and dynamic, colorful light shows for celebrations and special events.

The Philips LED lighting system consumes 14,120 watts while lighting the façade, less than half of the previous system. The efficiency, long useful life, and flexibility of control offered by a Philips LED lighting system all contributed to the decision to switch from conventional light sources to an advanced technology.

San Francisco's City Hall is entering a new century with its traditional focus on civic issues. City officials are conscious of how a colorful city hall can boost civic engagement while remaining mindful of its environmental footprint. The new lighting system promises to reduce exterior lighting costs by 70%.

The city hopes to use the easy-to-control color-changing lights to light the hall for charitable cause awareness and special events, including Giants World Series wins, Gay Pride Week, and civic occasions.

"I think the new lighting system will bring more foot traffic to the hall and a sense of joy to those watching the façade lighting," Lewis said. "City Hall can be proud that San Francisco is at the forefront of technology while saving money and energy."

The building remains an example to other American cities that the People's Palace can be sustainable, save energy and money, and become a beacon of city life.

"San Francisco is such a resilient city, and it needs a place to reflect that. The 100-year-old City Hall is a sign of the city's history and the direction it is taking forward. Technology, sustainability, and the symbols of this city are apparent in this new lighting system," Mayor Ed Lee said.

Project Credits

Lighting Design:
Toby Lewis, Arup

Electrical Engineer:
Jonathan Gervais, PE, Arup

District Project Director:
Rob Reiter, San Francisco City Hall Real Estate Division

IT Support:
Norman Goldwyn, IT Director of City and County of San Francisco

Building Electrician:
Bill Carlile, San Francisco Real Estate Division

Electrical Contractor:
Paganini Electric