At the time of its original construction back in 1943, the Maritime Center—located in the Bay Area near Berkley—provided childcare for Rosie the Riveters whose World War II duties kept them working in the nearby shipyards. The intended longevity of the structure didn’t initially exceed past the war, but the center remained in continuous operation for more than 50 years and is one of two of the 35 childcare centers from the era that still stands today. But a lack of a concrete foundation led to uneven settling and recent years of abandonment found the building in major disrepair. That is, until a consortium of groups came together and asked Hamilton + Aitken Architects to renovate the space.
The Rosie the Riveter Trust lead the overall effort (and acted as the overall project sponsor) by seeking grants and other funding to pay for the effort in conjunction with the National Park Services, who would soon share occupance of the building. The City of Richmond also provided funding as part of their redevelopment program, and the West Contra Costa Unified School District chipped in; as the new building would go on to house a charter school. Finally, the Richmond Community Foundation joined as the tenant for the second floor space.
Architect Chad Hamilton says that this amalgam, while exciting, led to major challenges, including the fact that the building had to be made safe and usable for children, the historic integrity of the space had to be preserved, and the funders required LEED certification (the latter was a no-brainer for Hamilton, whose firm always “takes energy savings and sustainability into consideration”).
LOCATION Richmond, CA Program Joint-use facility; K-2 charter school, nonprofit HQ, and a National Park Service site
Size 24,408 ft2
Certifications LEED Gold for schools
Awards AIA San Francisco Honor Award
Historic Preservation Architect Siegel & Strain
Structural Engineer SOHA Engineers
Civil Engineer Pacific Engineering
Mechanical Engineer H&M Mechanical Group
Landscape Architect Keller Mitchell & Co.
Acoustics Walsh Norris Commissioning Guttman & Blaevoet
Food Service Jerry Brown Design
“We started our sustainability design process by focusing on areas that would contribute the most to improve the building from a teaching and learning perspective,” Hamilton says. “Probably the most important sustainable elements for the school design are good acoustics, natural daylight, and high indoor air quality.” Taking this into account, the design features windows in every office and classroom space, skylights to improve and balance daylight, soundproofing, an exceptional heating and ventilation system, and no products that could emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The end result? A LEED Gold for Schools certification and achieved energy savings of more than 22% better than the required state standards.
The road to this coveted certification wasn’t without its bumps, as the team at Alten Construction says that new utilities, grading, paving, landscaping, irrigation, fencing, bio-swales, site accessories and improvements were all necessary. Building construction included a new foundation, structural repairs, seismic upgrades, complete re-roofing, selective reframing, salvage and reinstallation of indicated materials, rehabilitation of materials like doors and windows, insulation, finishes, and much more.
“When we first saw the building, it was sinking in multiple areas, it was unoccupied for many years, and just in bad shape,” says Alten Construction project manager James Mitchell, speaking with field superintendent Harry Torrano. “We pushed through the daily issues of a construction project and made it happen. I drive by it frequently now and can really say it looks really nice and has added a positive outlook on the neighborhood and community of Richmond.”
Hamilton notes that the requirements for preserving the building’s historic fabric also helped reinforce the team’s desire to rescue and reuse as much of the original building as possible. Not everything was salvageable though, as toxic materials and dryrot lingered on many of the materials. But most of the exterior wood siding and trim was reused, and interior features like casework and built-in furniture were restored, too. When entirely new materials were needed, Hamilton looked for modern equivalents of the materials that were used historically. The project is also punctuated by a turf yard, bio-swale areas for water treatment, cool roofing, and water filtration swales for diverting rainwater runoff.
Perhaps the most satisfying conclusion is the fact that the Maritime Center is located in one of the Bay Area’s more economically depressed communities, as Hamilton says, and the building will provide better educational opportunities and services to the community. “I’m so gratified to be a part of that effort because many of the ‘Rosies’ that worked in the shipyards around the San Francisco Bay moved here from all over the country, including the Deep South,” he says. “And when the war effort wound down, they were left without the good paying jobs they once had. The Maritime Center will do a little bit to help their grandchildren find better opportunities.”