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San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco, CA

When planning its 277,500 square foot Administration Building in downtown San Francisco, the Public Utilities Commission - the area’s provider of power, drinking water and wastewater services - was strongly committed to being a national leader in sustainable design. The challenge was to identify and use green technologies that could work within the constraints of the building’s urban environment, as well as fulfill long-term cost-saving measures. The SFPUC chose integrated solar panels and wind turbines to generate energy and a Living Machine® system to treat and reuse its wastewater.


The design includes a Living Machine system, which seamlessly integrates the building’s lobby, front walkway and city sidewalk. After collection and primary treatment, all wastewater will flow into the Living Machine’s tidal and vertical flow cells, where its patented fill-and-drain technology treats the water through periodic tidal cycling. The effluent will then be double-filtered and disinfected with both ultraviolet light and chlorine. The high-quality, clear water from the system will then be reused both inside the building for toilet flushing as well as exterior irrigation.


  • The building will save approximately 750,000 gallons of water per year, providing an additional 900,000 for non-potable uses off-site.
  • The system will provide attractive exterior foliage and a safe, pleasant public space.
  • Will accept all wastewater generated by the building’s employees and produce high quality water to flush toilets and for future off-site irrigation.
  • The building’s green design is projected to save the SFPUC $118 million in reduced costs over 75 years.

SFPUC Raised cell
SFPUC Sidewalk cells close up
SFPUC Sidewalk
SFPUC Sidewalk 2
SFPUC raised cell 2
SFPUC exterior