When selecting an architect for the new San Francisco General Hospital, the city looked no further than its local Fong & Chan Architects, which has more than 30 years of experience designing hospitals and other health-care facilities. “We put together a highly qualified hospital design team,” says Chiu Lin Tse-Chan, cofounder of Fong & Chan. Developed on a brownfield site, the hospital is a next-generation trauma center, improving patient comfort and safety and nurse efficiency while reducing risk of error, injury, and disease. “We were able to accommodate a very ambitious program in a tight site and come up with a design that fit the existing campus fabric and blended well with historic buildings,” says David G. Fong, Fong & Chan’s design principal. Here, the architects take us inside their design.

San Francisco General Hospital

San Francisco General Hospital


Location San Francisco
Size 540,000 ft²
Beds 284
Cost $850 million
Completed April 2015 (expected)
Program Patient rooms, waiting areas, lobbies

Drawing on Hospitality

Unlike other hospitals, 92 percent of San Francisco General’s 284 rooms are single occupancy, and each is designed with a hospitality style, using vibrant yet soothing colors to evoke a climate of nature, vitality, and well-being. Because patients are often confined to their beds, a floor-to-ceiling curtainwall system maximizes daylight while a single bedside remote allows patients to adjust the lights, window shades, and TV.

Ensuring Comfort

All window glass is low-E and insulated to repel heat. Photovoltaic sensors in each room and on the roof automatically adjust the window shades based on the level of incoming sunlight and turns fixtures off at set levels (there is also an override switch that allows the light to be individually adjusted). A variable air-volume system provides individualized temperature control and recovers up to 60 percent of waste energy.

San Francisco General Hospital

San Francisco General Hospital


Architect Fong & Chan Architects
Client City of San Francisco
General Contractor Webcor Builders
Structural Engineer Arup
Mechanical Engineer Gayner Engineers
Electrical Engineers FW Engineers / SCE
Civil Engineer Brio Engineering Associates
Landscape Architect Robert LaRocca & Associates
Lighting Engineer Arup Lighting

 Standardized Rooms

Patient safety was a pivotal factor in room design. “Ordinarily, rooms back-to-back are mirror images rather than identical, meaning that in every other room, equipment is on the opposite side, which confuses doctors and staff,” says Fong & Chan principal Nuno Lopes. “We standardized the rooms, so the controls would become second nature to them.” Private medication rooms allow nurses to give their undivided attention to dispersing medicine while increased lighting ensures they can clearly see the labels.

Unequaled Amenities 

Handrails and hand-washing stations will be put into every room, and the architects specified that rubber hallway flooring be used to help prevent and cushion falls. Patients who are on the road to recovery can get fresh air and exercise walking around the 25,000-square-foot rooftop healing garden. The newest change in hospital procedures is the hybrid operating room. “The hybrid OR and IR rooms permit surgery with real-time imaging in the same room,” Tse-Chan says. “Also, larger ICU rooms allow space for minor surgeries and in-room X-rays. These designs and technologies all lead to faster, better patient care.”

Patient room at San Francisco General Hospital

Patient room at San Francisco General Hospital


Certification LEED Gold (expected)
Lighting Occupancy sensors, daylighting
HVAC Energy efficient HVAC systems, tight building envelope
Materials Low-VOC materials, recycled content

Exceeding LEED

“The goal for the project is to exceed the requirements of LEED,” Tse-Chan says. “We feel confident that, in aggregate, the building materials will contain at least 30 percent recycled content, including steel, ceiling tiles, porcelain tiles, terrazzo, and resilient flooring.” Indeed, all wood is FSC-certified, and portions of the concrete aggregate were sourced locally. Low-flow fixtures are used throughout, with dual-flush toilets in private patient rooms. The drought-resistant plants in the landscaping are watered with reclaimed water, and the hospital has committed to an extensive composting system, resulting in maximum LEED credits for this category.

Earthquake Proof

The most notable part of the building’s design is the base isolation system, which decelerates the stress that the ground motion puts on the structure by 30 percent, minimizing the effects of a potential earthquake in the region. “The overall damage to the building will be very minimal,” Lopes says. “And the hospital will continue its operations without having to stop or move any patients.” This was a critical green feature, he says, because it required 10 percent less steel or 3,000 fewer tons, than alternative solutions.