Construction has been underway at the Mission Rock development in San Francisco since last year, and prefabrication is playing a major part in the project's creation. The 28-acre mixed-use development, which has been estimated at $2.5 billion, is a public-private partnership between the Port of San Francisco, the San Francisco Giants and commercial real estate company Tishman Speyer.
Prefabricated building systems firm Clark Pacific worked with the owners and design firms like Henning Larsen, MVRDV, Studio Gang and WORKac to come up with a prefabrication solution that would also achieve the aesthetic of the project, which will feature natural and iconic California scenes on the exteriors.
Clark Pacific performed the planning work for free under an agreement that it would be awarded the prefabrication contract if it was able to meet the design goals of the project as well as the budget. It has since been awarded the project.
When fully built in 2026, Mission Rock, which is on the San Francisco waterfront and one bridge away from the Giants' Oracle Park, will offer up to 2.8 million square feet and include:
- 1,200 residential units, 40% of which will be affordable.
- Public access waterfront improvements.
- Resiliency against a 66-inch sea level rise and adaptation features.
- 8 acres of new parks and open space.
- Up to 1.4 million square feet of office space.
- More than 200,000 square feet of retail and manufacturing space.
- Rehabilitation of historic Pier 48.
Elevated loading docks, for instance, have been designed so that they can be used as pedestrian walkways as water levels rise.
Jim Lewis, director of sales at Clark Pacific, said the kind of early collaboration between the prefabrication and Mission Rock teams was similar to how the company worked on the Apple "spaceship " headquarters in Cupertino, California, and is necessary to achieving a design-prefab balance.
The challenge, he said, is to make these projects constructible while still aesthetically pleasing to the client. And a large team of engineers and designers plays a key role.
"We have integrators in multiple disciplines within Clark Pacific," he said.
As part of that collaboration, Lewis said, the client starts with a list of must-haves and then the team goes from there.
"And then we do a deep dive internally," he said, "to figure out if we can change materials, change thicknesses, change a little detail, change the window profile ... And then we work on those. "
Efficient and beautiful
Using prefab on such high-profile projects, Lewis said, should help debunk the misperception that prefab elements are always utilitarian.
"It's totally changing that," he said. "You can do iconic architecture and do it prefabricated. You just have to start early."
The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, presented a challenge to the process as many of the typically in-person presentations and meetings went virtual, he said. The gatherings that did take place in person had to be meticulously planned to comply with social distancing and other safety guidelines.
But when it comes to protecting against COVID-19, prefabrication offers some advantages as well. Having a significant portion of a project prefabricated offsite means that there are fewer tradespeople required on site.
Oftentimes, Lewis said, there is little control as to who is coming on and off a project site. That's easier to control within a prefab "manufacturing bubble."
"It's a gamechanger," he said.