Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Form + function + green technology = meeting the aesthetic and environmental needs of a city

"Seismic Wave" / Waiting for the Muni
Metro N Judah train at the corner
of Carl and Cole in San Francisco. 

The city of San Francisco has enjoyed a history of environmental sustainability and it prides itself on being a city of inclusion, too.

Reflecting these values are the colorful and artistic "Seismic Wave" Muni transit shelters that have sprouted up all around the City since the first one debuted on Geary and Arguello Boulevards in 2009. By the end of this year, there will be about 1,000 transit shelters that are making use of innovative solar technology and design.

In the words of former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who oversaw the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the first of the new transit shelters nearly four years ago, they "will make getting around this beautiful city easier and greener."

On a recent visit to the City, I rode the Muni Metro train from Embarcadero Station to Golden Gate Park to see the Rudolf Nureyev exhibit at the de Young Fine Arts Museum. During my nearly half-hour ride, I noticed several of these aesthetically-pleasing transit shelters dotting the N Judah route.

On my return trip downtown, I encountered one of the hip, "seismic wave" shelters up close at the corner of Carl and Cole Streets, across from the Crepes on Cole cafe where I had stopped for lunch, in the heart of the City's Cole Valley neighborhood.

I didn't mind that my wait for the next N Judah train would be eight minutes because it gave me time to study and admire the "Seismic Wave's" design and function.

A poster inside one of the shelter's display panels caught my attention: "Form and function combine with green technology to create a compelling, iconic structure designed to meet the aesthetic and environmental needs of a City at the forefront of new age technology."

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) touts its new "Seismic Wave" transit shelters as "the most sustainable shelter under the sun."

It's easy to see how and why.

Among the shelter's many "green" features" according to the SFMTA are:

  • Solar-powered photovoltaic cells can generate up to 100 watts of electricity -- enough to power high efficiency fluorescent backlit information panels, super efficient rooftop lighting and NextBus and Push to Talk technologies.
  • Up to 40 percent of all energy captured can be recycled back into the power grid.
  • Wave-shaped plastic canopy composed of 40 percent post-industrial recycled content.
  • Galvanized steel beams created with 60 to 70 percent reclaimed product.

Other features include: ergonomically-designed seats for up to six customers and steel support columns that can vary in length to accommodate San Francisco's hilly terrain.

In a 2009 interview with sf.streetsblog.org., project designer designer Olle Lundberg said it's been fun leaving his signature on the city. Lundberg Design, a local architect, was selected in a competition to design the civic project.

"We've done some really beautiful buildings in the city, but honestly nothing will have the same impact as (1000) of these will," said Lundberg. "These are going to be everywhere and are going to be this kind of icon. I do hope that they become part of the street vocabulary of San Francisco."

Indeed, form + function + green technology = meeting the aesthetic and environmental needs of a city -- the City.

"Seismic Wave" photograph by Michael Dickens, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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