Careful Historic Preservation Creates New San Francisco Animal Care Center


San Francisco Animal Care and Control Facility, San Francisco


Project size: 74,520 sf (actual shelter is 65,000 sf)

Project cost: $55 million

Site time: May 2019-February 2021

Delivery method: CM at risk


Tendering company and general contractor: Clark Construction Group – CA, LP

Owner: San Francisco Department of Public Works

Architect: Design and construction of buildings SFDPW

structural engineer: Department of Public Works

Mechanical engineer: Air control

Electrical Engineer: Electric Becker

plumbing engineer: JW McClenahan

construction manager: Department of Public Works


“GC used an autonomous robot dog for 360 [degree] photo captures, floor flatness scanning, quality control, etc. This complex project – with seismic upgrades, new roofing and new MEP/FS systems – was completed on time and under budget. Incredible attention to detail, quality and safety.”

“Unique building and unusual end use. Careful preservation of building materials. The exterior is sober [and] shows restraint, paying attention to the original masonry details. The interior reorganization showed creativity in problem solving. [The project also had] site constraints.


It is an adaptive reuse of a building that, when originally constructed in the 1890s, was one of the largest power generation facilities in the United States. In the 1940s, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency began using the building as a maintenance depot. The latest rebuild, which involved nearly a decade of planning, created a world-class veterinary center and provided a new home for the city’s animal care and control agency, which operated from an overcrowded warehouse and obsolete built in 1931.

This reconstruction, which was completed on time in 21 months and under budget, consisted of a major seismic upgrade, new on-site utilities, new mechanical systems; and a new roof, floor decks and courtyard within the existing building envelope, which has been restored to preserve the 19th century facade.

The building is part of the historic Showplace Square district, once a cluster of warehouses and factories. “We were able to preserve an important part of the city’s past and provide a safe, modern and user-friendly facility that will meet San Francisco’s needs for years to come,” said Alaric Degrafinried, acting director of San Francisco Public Works.

Animal Care & Control is located in the historic Showplace Square district of San Francisco.

Project achievements included meeting modern animal welfare requirements, building resilience for emergency response, preserving a historic landmark, boosting the local economy, and running the project for a pandemic.


During the initial demolition, some 300 historic bricks were salvaged for reuse. The broken bricks of the facade were painstakingly cut out, one by one, then replaced by the salvaged bricks. Craftsmen used specialized grinders to preserve the surrounding brickwork while employing safety methods to avoid exposure to silica.

The building’s wooden windows and original brickwork have been carefully cleaned. Exterior doors and roof profile have been restored to maintain historic integrity.

The windows and masonry of the building have been restored.
The windows and brickwork of the existing building have been carefully cleaned and restored.

The team took extraordinary steps that required careful pre-planning and development coordination to protect the structure’s historic facade during construction. To get materials and equipment inside the site, the team had to crane everything onto the masonry wall, including bulky MEP equipment and landscaping items.


Designed and built to meet current seismic resilience standards, the new animal care and control center can perform emergency operations after a major earthquake and when electricity and water services are interrupted for three days. An emergency generator (installed in the car park) is designed to activate in less than a minute in the event of a power cut from the main network. The new facility is equipped with an underground domestic water storage system to enhance emergency response capabilities.

Incidentally, this facility is adjacent to a critical agency that responds to transit emergencies for the city and county of San Francisco, and access to their loading dock was through the north end of the project site. To maintain mandated 24/7 ingress and egress access, the project required close and constant coordination and communication.

The seismic retrofit of a historic structure was a very complex endeavor. Beginning with the renovation of the foundations, crews installed shotcrete reinforcement walls along the perimeter footing to support the brick envelope.

A new truss system is part of the seismic resistance of the building.
Newly installed horizontal diaphragms or diaphragm trusses transmit horizontal forces to and from shear walls for seismic resistance.

The reconstruction team demolished the existing structural columns and installed horizontal diaphragms or diaphragm trusses. This system transmits horizontal forces to and from shear walls for seismic resilience. The horizontal diaphragms had to be high enough to clear the clerestory windows, but low enough to achieve a decent head height under the bracing, creating a functional attic. The composite metal deck tiles were then installed, followed by the interior finishes.

Always looking to innovate, Clark Construction’s VDC team used this project to test an autonomous robot dog that performed 360-degree photo captures, scanned the floor for flatness, flagged defined safety hazards, and created analytics. point clouds and asset labeling.


The main hall of the establishment.
The main hall accentuates the mass of the establishment.

To understand how to maintain the historic integrity of the building while meeting the needs of the animal care center, the ReCon team evaluated several case studies, visited other Bay Area shelters, and attended numerous conferences. in animal care facilities. The team’s solution was to split the building horizontally into three different levels.

The main entrance accentuates the volume of the original structure, revealing the facility’s triple-height space. Three areas of the lobby also serve as a canvas for art created by a local East Bay artist. The large-scale colorful images made of wood and glass energize the spaces and draw visitors into the rooms, while also serving as orientation for the center.

The courtyard is one of the main design features of the new ACC and ticks off three must-haves: a functional exterior space, more daylight and the enhancement of the historic hull.

The roof terrace on the third floor of the building is another key design feature and includes animal enclosures separated into two areas, one for dogs and one for small creatures such as rabbits. The artificial turf conceals a flushing/rinsing system to manage waste and pet odors. The rooftop terrace also provides seating and houses the facility’s MEP system.

Water storage tanks contribute to the resilience of the facility.
The large water storage tanks are part of the resilience of the facility which was designed to keep the center running after a natural disaster.

Each animal area has been doubled since the former home of the ACC. The new ACC is fitted with the latest animal care specific ventilation technology. And the facility has a state-of-the-art veterinary suite in which vets can now perform two operations simultaneously. This expansive suite holds more recovery cages in the room so vets can observe animals coming out of anesthesia. A new X-ray machine is enabling the center to provide improved dental care, removing a huge barrier to adoption.

The original building was divided into different levels.
In order to maintain the historic integrity of the building and accommodate the programming needs of the new facility, the structure has been divided into three levels.

Although the facility was designed and built with animals in mind, it was also designed with care for the staff and volunteers who care for these animals. Administrative and volunteer spaces are bright and airy, taking advantage of historic industrial showcases. The team also solicited feedback from ACC staff and volunteers on what amenities they would like to have to help them accomplish their tasks.

Boyd S. Abbott