Location San Francisco
Size 37,000 ft²
Program Lecture spaces, classrooms, offices, cafeteria
Client Wharton School of Business–San Francisco
Project Manager Jones Lang LaSalle
Construction Manager BCCI
Electrical Engineer CBF Electric
Consulting Engineer Flack & Kurtz
Once upon a time, business in the United States was all east of the Mississippi. When the industries and investment dollars that built America were concentrated in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, the most prominent of business schools were there as well: Wharton (University of Pennsylvania), Booth (University of Chicago), Stern (New York University), Columbia University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology were the top choices of aspiring students. MBA schools at highly ranked California institutions such as Stanford University and the University of California–Berkeley were for “Left Coasters.”
But business has shifted to the West dramatically in the past few decades—as has the money. The rise of Silicon Valley went hand-in-hand with globalization, including trans-Pacific shipping and the digitization of the entertainment industry. Naturally, many forward-looking MBA candidates were faced with a choice: go with the ivy-covered institutions they revered, or head west to enroll in a California school. But in 2001, Wharton established a campus in San Francisco, a decision that has proved fortuitous for the school and its students.
“Due to the Internet boom, we’ve seen so many companies and so much venture capital now centered on the West Coast,” says Bernadette Birt, executive director and chief operating officer at Wharton School of Business–San Francisco. Wharton already had 12,000 alumni living on the West Coast, and there was an extra need for executive education and entrepreneurial programs. Enhancing its existing program back east, the school offers a visiting semester program that allows all MBA students at least a foothold in the West even if they’re primarily studying at the original Wharton in Philadelphia.
Make no mistake—this was not a matter of simply setting up classrooms 3,000 miles away. Wharton–San Francisco had to excel technologically and academically, and that meant establishing a sustainable home.
Certification LEED-CI Gold
Site Adaptive reuse of existing building, transit oriented
Air Quality Low-VOC carpets, flooring, paint, sealants, adhesives
Lighting Ceiling tiles reflect natural light, motion sensors
Materials Recycled 80% from teardown, furniture has recycled content, steel has recycled content, EnergyStar service appliances
Programs Green cleaning products, on-site recycling and composting, locally grown produce for cafeteria
Wharton–San Francisco is not your father’s business school campus. For the first ten years of its existence, it occupied 20,000 square feet in a historic office structure (the Folger Building, named for the coffee brand) in the city’s financial district. With its move to the Hills Brothers Plaza (coincidentally named for another coffee empire that built the original structure as a manufacturing facility), it took on 37,000 square feet to accommodate a growing academic program. The new location is at the base of the Bay Bridge in the Embarcadero district.
The school’s identity is stronger in its new location. It shares the 1920s Romanesque Revival facility with other tenants, including Gensler, the architecture firm responsible for the Wharton build-out, but ground-level signage gives the school marquee status. Just as important, students are studying in a technologically advanced building that is LEED-CI Gold certified, because green is more than an expectation in San Francisco. “It’s a high priority in California,” Birt says, adding that it’s also a mission at the main university in Philadelphia to move buildings toward reducing Penn’s environmental footprint.
Wharton–San Francisco accomplished its environmental goals on multiple fronts. Its location is near public transit stations (Caltrain, BART, and Muni lines) with easy access to airports to accommodate visiting faculty, guest lecturers, and students from outside the area. This is critical because the MBA for Executives program is largely conducted on alternating weekends, and midweek the school hosts non-degree executive education courses.
Within the building, recycling and composting diverts 78 percent of waste from landfills, and a green cleaning program minimizes the use of chemicals and disposable supplies by switching to reusable, Earth-friendly equipment. The food-service program uses a vendor that sources food and beverages within 100 miles as much as possible. The school also ensures that the food is hormone- and antibiotic-free, humanely grown, and prepared daily.
The build-out itself had to meet the needs of a 21st-century business school. Three lecture halls, 15 small-group study rooms, three teleconference rooms, plus flexible open spaces are necessary to facilitate instructional and collaboration experiences. Eighty percent of waste from the teardown and renovation, completed in 2011, was recycled. The steel in the tiered classrooms is made of 50 to 80 percent post-consumer recycled content, and the gypsum and studs have 20 percent or more recycled content. Flooring materials are certified as RFCI FloorScore or CRI Green Label Plus, furniture is certified by GreenGuard, and food service operations incorporate Energy Star appliances and low-flow kitchen faucets. The ceiling materials maximize natural light reflection for the interior of the building, and task lighting substitutes for overhead lights when practical. Additionally, motion sensors provide lighting as needed and reduce unnecessary energy use.
The new Wharton–San Francisco space is crisp both in appearance and its efficiencies. But it’s also designed to accommodate the fluid needs of modern business education. “Everything is interactive,” Birt says. “We have video cameras to capture classes and lectures from guest speakers. We use Skype cameras for the global consulting practicum, and Cisco partners with us to conduct workshops that are shared between San Francisco and Philadelphia.” Birt describes the San Francisco facility as Version 3.1 of what was originally built on the Penn campus back in Philadelphia.
To understand the importance of technology in learning, it helps to understand the students. In the MBA for Executives program, interactivity through electronics and face-to-face is an essential part of business-leader training. “Students are in teams from intentionally diverse backgrounds,” Birt says. “Small group interaction is a critically important part of their education.” These technologies added costs and logistical challenges in the build-out, including extensive collaboration between IT designers and product vendors, but, as Birt explains, all are essential components of education in a technology-based economy.
So too are the green initiatives found throughout Wharton–San Francisco. “You see [sustainability] in everything, including the transition from print to electronic textbooks,” Birt says. “Students are keenly aware that this is what their competition is doing as well.” Keeping up is something Wharton has done for decades. The school is America’s oldest collegiate school of business, having been established in 1881, and survival over these many years—and recently these many miles—could only have happened as the result of a distinctive choice to evolve.