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Gap Headquarters Engineering Collaboration

There are plenty of corporate HQs out there. But there’s only one Gap.

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The iconic American fashion brand owns six private labels sold in more than 90 countries. In the late 1990s, Gap realized that they needed to unite their disparate leadership and development teams under one roof. They engaged Robert A.M. Stern, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, to conceive a new headquarters. His 15-story, 540,000 square foot design included a cafeteria, an art gallery, two levels of underground parking, outdoor decks, an exhibition hall, and a rooftop garden.

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Initially, Gap contracted a competitor to handle the MEP design. The firm’s work had a few major problems. Most significantly, they placed mechanical equipment along the perimeter, killing the waterfront views on several floors. After several months of setbacks, Gap pulled in CB Engineers. In our first weeks on the project, we simply listened. We learned that the client wanted a space that inspired employees to excel, and that advanced sustainable design and construction—a relatively novel concept in the days before LEED® certification.

The design we submitted was an exemplar of environmentally sustainable engineering. Through an extensive thermal analysis, we demonstrated that Stern’s signature seven-story glass atrium would allow for natural air circulation and passive cooling, saving thousands in energy costs annually. The final design also included operable windows and 10’8” ceilings in the most densely occupied spaces, which naturally regulate the building’s temperature.

CB Engineers’ work ensured that key features—expansive views and wide corridors—were not obstructed by mechanical elements. We implemented a space-saving, compact HVAC system and an innovative underfloor air distribution system that capitalizes on the building’s thermal mass to reduce peak cooling loads. These will significantly offset utility costs in the long term.

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Beyond executing a rigorous, flexible, and sustainable MEP design, we demonstrated the importance of understanding the client’s needs before diving into the design process. Because we spent time listening on the front end, we developed a relationship with the client and architect that was a perfect example of dynamic collaboration—and that ultimately made the project more successful.

Photo credit: Peter Aaron/OTTO for Robert A.M. Stern Architects

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Project Details

Project Type: Commercial

Size: 540,000 sq ft

Location: San Francisco, California, US

Developer: N/A

Architect: Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Gensler

Completion Date: 2001