San Francisco, California

Exposing the dynamic potential of a building under construction was behind the development of the seismic exoskeleton that became one of the defining elements of Xiao-Yen’s house.

Design concept and solution: The extensive renovation of this house began by tearing away the layers of substandard remodeling that had accrued over the past 100 years, and replacing it with a 3,800-square-foot contemporary program that includes a more open plan for work and living, a sod roof, and a frameless glass penthouse supported by the steel exoskeleton. The exoskeleton is part of a non-invasive seismic upgrade that preserves the existing building while supporting decks on two floors and a 4Kw bi-facial photovoltaic solar panel system.

The clients are a documentary filmmaker and her husband, an artist who primarily works in assembling found objects. Over decades he has amassed a huge stockpile of old growth redwood. During early design-related conversations he expressed an interest in reusing this material as well as the existing redwood framing that would come out of the portion of the building that would be demolished. The architects were excited about the possibilities of reusing his wood and began designing in options for implementation. During this time, he carefully deconstructed nearly all of the redwood from the existing building by pulling out nails and carefully grading it for quality. The project began to be referred to as “honest sustainability” among the client and architects, meaning it required a lot of sweat equity, but would be ultimately more satisfying than just replacing an obsolete item with something new and shiny. The realm of sustainability was elevated to a higher level where the materials changed state, becoming regenerative.

The architects decided that they would reuse the redwood as the actual exterior siding. The most obvious option was to use it as a rain screen (a layer floating above the actual siding), but this more typical application was rejected as clumsy and bulky, the opposite of the preferred taut and fitted exterior. Ultimately a system was developed where a waterproof underlayment (much like wetsuit material) was installed first. The redwood was then milled into five different sizes and randomly attached to the waterproof membrane. The random pattern of the exterior siding amplifies the movement of the shadow patterns on the wall throughout the day.

Total construction cost:
$ 1.2 million


Xiao-Yen Wang and Andy Martin

Completion Date:
October 2010

Gross square footage:
Lower apartment 1500 sq. ft.
Upper apartment 2300 sq. ft.

Craig Steely Architecture
8 Beaver Street
San Francisco California 94114
Tel. 415 864 7013

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Project Architect: Craig Steely
Project team: Luigi Silverman, Seth Pare-Mayer

Architect of record
Craig Steely

Val Rabichev

Sod Roof: Fred Ballerini

Craig Steely Architecture

General contractor

Bruce Damonte
415 845 6919

CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Autocad, Rhino



Structural system:
Steel Frame fabrication:
Tony Orantes, Orantes Architectural Metals

Exterior cladding
Metal/glass curtainwall:
Bonelli Windows and Doors

Mike Stang/California Custom


Bonelli Doors and Windows

Sliding doors:
Bonelli Doors and Windows