Nine months after cracks were discovered in two structural steel beams of the Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects–designed Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco, the transit hub will finally reopen on July 1. However, busses won’t roll through the $2.2 billion terminal until the end of the summer; at first, only the 5.4-acre rooftop park will be open to the public. The repair plan announced in January appears to have worked, and, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the building was declared safe by a panel of engineers yesterday. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which covers the entirety of the San Francisco Bay Area, had determined that welding access holes in the two cracked beams had been incorrectly cut during construction, resulting in stress fractures. After the city paid $6 million in testing and $2.5 million a month in security for the closed center, contractors decided to reinforce the two affected beams, and two untouched beams they connect to, with steel plates. Although the three-block-long transit center is safe to occupy again, the interior was stripped during the repairs and workers need more time to reinstall the ceiling and column coverings. Bus drivers, who had previously been picking up and dropping off passengers at a satellite terminal on Folsom Street a block away will need to be retrained as well. So in the meantime, fitness classes will resume on the transit center’s roof and pedestrians can once again explore the park. Still, there’s no news on the progress to bring rail to the complex’s basement, which was built to accommodate high-speed trains but remains empty. No timeline or budget has been agreed upon for a BART and Caltrain extension to the Transbay Transit Center, although politicians and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the independent agency responsible for bringing rail to the station, have agreed upon the need to do so.
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A pair of cracked windows have been discovered at San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower. It's another stroke of bad luck for the city's newest architectural marvels. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that local Department of Building Inspection officials confirmed the presence of cracked window panes in the 61-story, Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed tower last week. The cracks were discovered along the inner panes of a dual-glazed, south-facing window on the 12th floor and a similar east-facing window on the 14th floor of the tower. A spokesperson for the building’s owner told CBS in San Francisco that because the cracks are located on the inside of the window assembly, the damage poses no danger of falling glass. The cause for the cracks has not been discovered, but plans are underway to replace the affected windows in the coming weeks. The Salesforce Tower opened in January 2018 and is currently San Francisco’s tallest building. At 1,070 feet in height, the building is considered the second tallest structure in the western United States behind Los Angeles’s Wilshire Grand tower. The discovery of cracked windows at Salesforce comes months after broken window panes were discovered in the Handel Architects-designed Millennium Tower just one block over. The 58-story tower has settled over 18 inches on one side and is also leaning by 14 inches, according to recent reports. The settling is believed to have caused the cracked windows discovered last year at the tower. Plans for a $100 million fix to stop the sinking are currently under development. Those efforts include drilling up to 300 new micro-piles through the building's foundation and into the bedrock below in an effort to stabilize the tower. The tower opened in 2009 and cost about $350 million to build. Another new San Francisco project, the Transbay Transit Center, located at the base of the Salesforce Tower, remains closed nearly six months after a pair of cracked structural beams were discovered in that building. A permanent fix for the damaged beams is currently underway, though a reopening date for the transit center has yet to be announced. Officials with the Transbay Joint Powers Authority blame manufacturing defects for the damaged beams. These troubles come as news of the city’s precarious subsoils and the potential earthquake risk for certain high-rise towers are brought to light as well.
Late last week, Transbay Joint Powers Authority officials in San Francisco approved plans to repair a pair of fractured beams that were discovered at the now-shuttered Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects–designed Transbay Transit Center last fall. The plan calls for the installation of four sets of new steel reinforcing plates to shore up the failing members, The San Francisco Examiner reported. The peer-reviewed repair plans were approved in late December by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), a transportation agency that works across the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. MTC’s preliminary investigation concluded that the issues with the fissured beams were linked to the presence of welding access holes that had been cut into the beams to facilitate their installation. In all, four beams will be reinforced under the repair plan: the two fractured beams spanning over Fremont Street and a pair of corresponding but uncompromised beams located on the opposite side of the building. According to the report, the steel plates will be bolted together above and below the areas where the fractures occurred on each beam. A date for reopening the center has not been set, but authorities are at work on a construction schedule for the repairs. A further update to the plans will be presented to the board of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority later this week. The $2.2 billion transit center opened to much fanfare in August 2018 but closed just a few weeks after its debut because of the construction faults. The transit center spans three blocks and is capped by a 5.4-acre park designed by PWP Landscape Architects. Thornton Tomasetti is the design engineer for the project. The center has been closed for over 100 days and commuters have gone back to using a temporary bus depot that had been in operation during construction for their daily transportation needs.
Nearly three months after a pair of cracked steel beams were discovered at the Pelli Clarke Pelli–designed Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco, crews investigating the structural failures have begun to piece together what might have gone awry. According to recent investigations, the beams in question were not only fabricated with imperfections that rendered the steel more brittle and weaker than specified, but they were also altered by the fabricators before they were installed in a way that differed from the shop drawing designs that had been initially approved for the project, The Mercury News reported. The changes include the addition of so-called “weld access” or “weld termination” holes along the web of each joist to make installation easier. While it is still unknown exactly which type of openings were made in the beams—there are key design differences between the two types of holes—the resulting change is thought to have created an imbalance in how the loads from the building above were delivered down to the transit center’s foundations. As the center came under regular use, the buses and crowds that occupied its upper levels put enormous strain on the compromised beams, resulting in the debilitating fissures. The Mercury News reported that Stockon, California–based Herrick Corporation, the company responsible for fabricating the steel beams in question, prefers to refer to the openings as “weld termination” holes because those openings are less strictly regulated than “weld access” holes, which have more stringent design and finishing requirements. Design engineers Thornton Tomasetti have not provided comment regarding the nature of the openings in question. Robert Hazleton, president of Herrick Corporation told The Mercury News, “It may sound like a small thing, but it does change how you finish the inside of the hole,” adding, “There are less specific requirements for a weld termination hole.” The stresses resulting from the new openings compounded the inadequacies of the steel members, according to the report, which also highlighted a lack of specificity regarding these types of failures in San Francisco’s building codes as a key oversight in the building’s design. Potential fixes for the beams include welding supplemental steel plates to each member to improve their rigidity, though the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the public agency tasked with building and maintaining the terminal, will not have a specific plan for repairs or an estimated date for reopening the $2.2 billion complex until January 2019. Until a final cause and remedy are found, San Francisco commuters will continue to use the temporary bus terminal created during construction of the Transbay Center for their transportation needs.
Since the problem was originally identified in 2016, San Francisco’s Millennium Tower has been slowly but surely sinking and tilting westward towards the adjacent Mission Street. While Handel Architects, DeSimone Consulting Engineers, and the developer Millennium Partners contend that the execution and design of the project were sound, with the current structural issues stemming from the construction of the similarly defective Transbay Transit Center nearby, one fact remains clear: the tower must be stabilized to halt its sinking. Today, the developers and structural engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger have submitted a $100 million proposal to retrofit the tower with a new system of piles reaching the bedrock below. Currently, the tower rests atop a 10-foot-thick concrete foundation bonded by nearly 1000 reinforced concrete piles driven close to 90 feet into a layer of soft clay that stretches across the Bay Area. While this practice is not uncommon in Downtown San Francisco, the sheer mass of the city’s fourth tallest tower places substantial strain on the soil below. The stabilization plan, led by Senior Principal Ronald Hamburger of Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, consists of approximately 50 new steel-and-concrete piles drilled 250-feet into the bedrock below. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, “each pile is 24 inches in diameter and weighs 140,000 pounds and would take three to four days to drill into place,” with a “reinforced concrete inner pile installed within each steel shaft.” How will this new ring of piles address the tower’s sinking? According to the Millennium Towers Homeowners Association, the “Perimeter Pile Upgrade” will reduce compression placed on the clay soils along the north and west elevations whilst encouraging secondary compression and two to three inches of sinking on the east and south elevations. This plan will effectively reduce, but not eliminate, the building's 14-inch tilt while prospectively stabilizing the entire foundation. The Perimeter plan is “an effective and practical approach to the settlement and tilting issues,” said Hamburger, which “preserves and enhances the building’s safety.” If the city approves the permit application, construction could be completed within 18 months.
The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) board of directors has called for a complete structural evaluation of the Pelli Clarke Pelli–designed Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco after installation crews discovered failing steel structural beams there in September. Now, over a month later, the transit center has been closed for longer than it was open as crews work to discover what went wrong. This week, representatives from TJPA, structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti, contractor Webcor/Obayashi Joint Venture, steel fabricator Herrick Corporation, and material supplier ArcelorMittal are all convening in New York to study material samples that were removed from the failing girders for further analysis. Engineering News Record reported that crews discovered bottom-flange cracks near the midpoint of one of the eight-foot-deep shop-welded girders. A second, more serious fracture was discovered running the entirety of a flange on the second beam. The two beams run parallel to one another over an 80-foot span running over Fremont Street. At a recent meeting, the TJPA board called for a complete structural evaluation of the 1.2 million-square-foot transit center in order to inspire public confidence in the structure’s safety and design. Ultimately, however, TJPA officials currently have no idea why the beams failed and because the fissures were discovered by accident, it is unknown if other areas are prone to fail, as well. At the meeting, one TJPA board member asked, “Was the engineering done right?" before adding, “We need assurance." The structural review team will now work to understand what happened before making design recommendations for how to fix the problem. Once a consensus is reached regarding on the cause of the girder failures, engineers will design a permanent fix that will also be peer reviewed to ensure its safety, Engineering News Record reported. TJPA projects that repairs will begin in December and take several months to complete.
A second cracked steel structural beam was discovered at the Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco Wednesday during an overnight examination, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. AN reported the initial cracked beam Tuesday afternoon. The Chronicle reports that the initial fissure discovered in a steel structural beam supporting the transit center’s 5.4-acre, PWP Landscape Architecture–designed park measures roughly 2-1/2 feet long by four inches deep and runs across the bottom of a 60-foot-long spanning element located above Fremont Street between Mission and Howard Streets on the transit center’s east side. The second damaged steel beam that was discovered runs parallel to that element and features a crack that is "slightly smaller," according to the report. As a result of the escalating situation, the transit center will remain closed at least through October 5 as crews work to investigate other elements of the structure, according to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), the entity that oversees the transit center and managed its construction. Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects designed the terminal as well as the Salesforce Tower located next door. During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Mark Zabaneh, executive director of the TJPA, said, “We will not open the transit center or Fremont Street until we are certain the issue is 100 percent rectified.” Officials at TJPA are worried the structural elements might fail and are therefore operating with a high degree of caution with regards to keeping the transit center closed. The steel beams in question were fabricated in Stockton, California, by Herrick Corp. as part of a $189-million contract struck between Skanska USA Civil West of New York and TJPA. TJPA authorities are inspecting the structure with the project contractors—Webcor and Obayashi entered into a joint venture for the job—and structural engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti, which was the engineer of record for the structure and also performed construction work on the building. Those authorities also plan to bring in independent engineers to reassess the facility’s design. AN will continue to report on this story as it develops.
Millennium Partners, the developer of Handel Architects—designed Millennium Tower in San Francisco, is being taken to court over the building's alarming sinking issue. The tower's homeowners association (HOA) let residents know last Thursday that it was filing a case against both Millennium Partners and Transbay Joint Powers Authority—the firm behind the substantial transit development adjacent to the tower. In the months prior to this, the HOA had staved off any legal action, advising tenants to do the same, as they privately discussed workarounds with the developer. (Some residents still filed lawsuits of their own.) During this process, the finger of blame was pointed toward the $2 billion, Pelli Clarke Pelli–designed transit scheme nearby that reportedly destabilized the tower's foundations. The 20 tenants that took matters into their own hands, though, made a different case. They argued that Millennium Partners was well aware that the structure had sunk significantly more—and at a faster rate—than expected, and failed to let prospective buyers know. A study in Fall of last year found that the tower and sunk 16 inches since it’s opening in 2008. By contrast, initial predictions for the building suggested that it would only sink six inches over its lifetime. To make matters worse, Millennium Tower is not settling evenly either, something which has result in a two-inch tilt. According to coverage from NBC Bay Area, the HOA has said: "The lawsuit would be intended to ... hold the defendants responsible for the damage to the building and... require the defendants to fund a comprehensive repair and restoration of the building, among other relief." A meeting scheduled for March 6 will apparently be held to "to discuss problems that may lead to the filing of a civil action, nonlitigation options, and other considerations." Whether the residents, unlike their tower, settle, remains to be seen.
The tallest residential tower in San Francisco, and the city's third tallest overall, has sunk 16 inches since it's opening in 2008, according to SFGate. Designed by Handel Architects, the Millennium Tower is one of the highest-profile buildings in the city with units selling as high as $12 million for a penthouse, one of which was owned by venture capitalist Thomas Perkins until his death earlier this year. Other notable residents include San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence and former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana. Currently the Transbay Transit Center, a transit station and neighborhood development project, is under construction on an adjacent site. Its first phase is due to be completed in late 2017, but a study of the site conducted by Arup in 2010 found that the tower had already sunk ten inches. Initial predictions for the tower suggested that it would only sink six inches over its lifetime. Of added concern is the fact that the tower is not settling evenly, and now has a tilt of two inches. Professor Greg Deierlein of the John A. Blume Earthquake Engineering Center at Stanford University told SFGate that these figures were "significant...and of concern," but not yet a threat to safety. However, the imbalance can lead to expensive maintenance costs down the road due to cracking walls and other structural issues. The Transbay Transit Center and the building's developer, Millennium Partners, have each placed blame for the tilt on the other. P.J. Johnson, a spokesperson for Millennium Partners, told SFGate that the nearby construction on the Transit Center caused the problem, suggesting that adequate measures were not taken to protect the tower during the excavation. Representatives of the Transit Center, on the other hand, have suggested that Millennium engineers cut costs and failed to anchor the building into the bedrock. The building also uses concrete rather than steel, and is therefore much heavier. It's unclear what steps developers will take to combat the issue, but it will likely involve expensive and complicated repairs.
New York has one, Chicago has one, and now the Chronicle’s John King alerts us that San Francisco might see a Trump-brand tower in its future. No one is taking bets on the conservative presidential candidate’s name emblazoned on a highrise located in one the most progressive cities on the planet, but King is stirring the pot to call attention to a land auction hosted by Transbay Joint Powers Authority on September 2. On the docket: a parcel of land on the 500 block of Howard Street, where zoning allows for an 800-foot tower. Five development teams will bid against each other. According to King, “[I]dentities are being kept secret until the live auction to, in the words of bureaucrats, 'preserve the integrity of the competition.'” Will Trump be one? The Chron’s critic is wagering a guess, suggesting that with minimum bid at $160 million, the live auction could set off a bidding war that would help pay for the Transbay Transit Center. Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, the center expected to serve eleven different transportation systems and feature a rooftop park. The tower on the offer would join others in San Francisco's Transbay district by Studio Gang, OMA, SOM, and Foster and Partners. Gang’s undulating 40-story tower recently came under fire for its soaring height, which community activists protested would cast a shadow over the public Rincon Park on the Embarcadero waterfront. King’s argument, however, is not that Trump will soon be mixing it up in the town of Milk and Moscone (or the new SF: Twitter and Uber) but that design is pushed off the table for the sake of raising cash. In 2007, the city held a design competition for the transit center and neighboring tower. This auction comes with no design strings attached. “Standards are slipping,” he wrote and continued: “If the check clears, good enough. Let the city’s Planning Department sort through messy questions about how the tower looks or whether the developer will try to push for extra space.”