Lucas Builds Green in the Presidio

Green architects dream of a client with deep pockets, impeccable taste, imagination, an open mind and a healthy respect for the environment. Lucas Letterman Digital Arts, a company formed by George Lucas to develop new high tech headquarters in San Francisco’s historic Presidio, “is one of the most fun clients we’ve ever worked with,” says Bill Browning of Rocky Mountain Institute’s Green Development Services. “They’re committed and passionate about the environment and employees’ quality of life, and extremely creative. They’re cost conscious, of course, but they’re a well-capitalized company, so if it makes sense they’ll say let’s do it.”

The 1800-acre Presidio, a former army base, is the first urban national park in the U.S. Six parcels are being commercially developed to cover the costs of purchasing the land. The Presidio has set sustainability as one of three major criteria by which all proposals to develop the parcels are judged.

The Letterman Digital Center combines just about everything in the green development cookbook, from energy-efficient construction to low-impact stormwater management. And at nearly a million square feet, with one of the world’s most famous corporate tenants, it promises to be an excellent showcase for the power of green thinking.

One of the plan’s most remarkable features is that nearly all the center’s 1500 parking spaces will be underground, a decision that for most companies would be considered extravagant. This makes it possible to create a large public green space. Even more impressive is that the number of parking spaces will serve only about two-thirds of the 2500 employees. The plan relies on extensive public transit, ridesharing and nearby employee housing (The Lucas companies already operate one of the best employee traffic management programs in the area).

As for the buildings, their thin cross-sections and internal courtyards – consciously echoing the Presidio style – will maximize daylighting and natural ventilation. An ingenious cooling system using raised floors combined with San Francisco’s mild climate, minimizes the need for mechanical systems and the energy they consume – a major achievement for such a large, computer-intensive office complex.

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