Historic San Francisco tower making name in sustainability

Historic San Francisco tower making name in sustainability

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Russ Building, a Jazz Age San Francisco landmark, is an old building but apparently not yet an outdated one. It snagged LEED platinum designation for its green building standards, according to the website Curbed.

That’s a step up from its previous gold award. Historic buildings have to be reevaluated every five years to maintain their ratings from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Judges highlighted innovations like the electric vehicle charging stations and the recycled materials that go into the building whenever there’s interior construction.

The Russ Building, at 31 stories tall, was San Francisco’s tallest for nearly four decades.

The high-rise tower bears the name of Polish silversmith Emanuel Charles Christian Russ, who in 1847 bought the land at 235 Montgomery for $75 (the equivalent of about $2,000 today) and built a house there out of scrap lumber and old ship’s bunks.

Russ’ sons struck it rich during the Gold Rush, and his jewelry business took off. Later, he built hotels and public gardens. Nothing Russ made himself remains anymore, but they put the family name on the new building in recognition of the Russ legacy.

Built in 1927, the Neogothic tower by George Kelham was hailed as an all-time great. Critics dubbed it the defining building of the San Francisco skyline.

But these days, it’s easy to miss. Thirty-one stories was enough to stand out for a while, but by the early '60s, taller buildings were overshadowing the Russ.

Still, the old number has its devotees, including local critic John King, who dubs it "not San Francisco’s tallest, but maybe its best."


Topics: Architectural Firms, Associations / Organizations, Building Owners and Managers, Certifications, Construction Firms, Engineering Firms, Great Commercial Buildings, Maintenance, Renovation / Restoration / Remodeling, Sustainable Communities, Urban Planning and Design, USGBC

Companies: U.S. Green Building Council


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