Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bay Bridge House Uses Recycled Materials to Conserve Historical Steel Scrap

When David Grieshaber, the co-founder of the Bay Bridge House, approached the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) with the idea of building a house out of scrap steel from the deconstructed San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, they ignored him. After a back and forth struggle, played out in the local media, the government finally had an answer: “Give us a proposal.” 

And for the next month and a half, over 73 proposals came in from students across 37 different schools and multiple countries. All of them describing unique, creative and innovative ways to turn this historically significant steel scrap into something remarkable. 

Bay Bridge House (Front View)

In all, the house will be utilizing approximately 792 tons of steel salvaged from the Bay Bridge project. Making a structure this size, without utilizing salvaged steel would require the mining of more than 1590 tons of iron ore, limestone and coal. It's the equivalent steel that would be used to build a fleet of nearly 1600 cars. But, rather, it will take a historic part of the Bay Area and convert it to a structure that will become historic in its own right. 

The Bay Bridge House is a project that David and his wife began in the summer of 2012 when they were startled to learn that a significant portion of the historical Bay Bridge, connecting Oakland and San Francisco, steel scrap was not being conserved. The project’s intentions were to do something more creative with some of the scrap, using a few small sections to create a modern self-sustaining house and eco multi-use space for the world. 

By utilizing the steel scrap from the deconstruction of the Bay Bridge, not only does it create a unique facility of historical significance but it also offsets the use of the material that would otherwise be used to produce that steel. 

“[Caltrans] couldn’t see the vision that my wife and I had,” says Grieshaber. “There wasn’t a way to convey it until we had these designs from the students. Now we can show the student designs and they say, ‘Oh, I get it, makes sense completely.’” 

“We wanted to make it a community product, and we had a lot of interest right off the bat,” says Grieshaber. “A friend, an architect, recommended a student design contest to get the newest and freshest ideas from around the world.” 

The winners were students, Lee Ka Chun and Ngan Ching Ying, from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture located in Copenhagen with their entry ‘Hanging House.

“We tried our best to make little to no restrictions on creativity. We wanted to keep the look of an actual bridge, visually tell it was the [old] Bay Bridge,” explained Grieshaber. “It also had to be a carbon neutral, net zero type of facility that will receive LEED AP status.” 

The repurposing of the bridge steel scrap, which itself contains a minimum of 25% recycled steel, benefits the group in their LEED plans. 

“The goal is to make it the most innovative eco type housing that’s built, not just on the west coast, but in all of America.” 

In addition to the notoriety of designing such a highly publicized facility, the students were awarded with a trophy created from an original 1933 Carnegie Steel S-curve from the bridge. They will also be offered an internship on the project and be listed as the architect on register if they do the necessary work, or the co-architect if they work with an area firm. 

“When I started, [some people] would look at me like I was totally nuts, but now I show them the designs, high ceilings, beautiful glass walls, great view of steel infrastructure around you and they understand,” says Grieshaber. “500 years from now, people will look back and see this building and they’ll instantly recognize it was part of our cultural history from the bay area.”  


More information available here and on official website.

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