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Old Bay Bridge May Find New Purpose

Monday, March 3, 2014

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While the new East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge has had its share of problems, getting rid of the old structure should be a bit easier, if a novel repurposing idea pans out.

A Bay-area organization called the Bay Bridge House aims to build a new 19,000-square-foot eco-friendly housing and work space from sections of the 77-year-old, 1.97-mile-long Oakland (East) Span. The new structure would overlook the new East Span, which opened last fall.

Bay Bridge House
Image courtesy of Bay Bridge House Project

The Bay Bridge House, made from old Oakland (East) Span components, would overlook the new span. This is an interior view of the current design.

Project co-founder David Grieshaber has been working on the bridge-turned-house plan since June 2012 when he learned that transportation officials planned to scrap most of the bridge after demolition.

“Let’s save a piece for us,” he writes on the organization’s website. The project would need roughly 1.32 percent of the structure.

Demolition and Delays

Nothing will happen soon. Demolition of the old span was initially slated as a three-year, $239 million project that would end in late 2016.

The structure is chock full of lead paint, so it cannot be imploded into the bay below. Instead, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) plans to take it down one piece at a time.

"We are going to dismantle the bridge essentially opposite of the way they put it together," Mike Whiteside, a Caltrans bridge engineer, told ABC7News.

But the demolition work began late, due in part to permitting delays as officials rushed to finish the new span. Just two months in, demolition was six months behind schedule and on track to go millions of dollars over budget, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Already, Caltrans and Bay Area Toll Authority officials have approved renegotiation of the takedown contract, the news outlet said.

Design and Approvals

Nevertheless, the Bay Bridge House project held a global design competition among architecture students to create a building made from old bridge components that would overlook the new East Span.

The result was a design for a self-sustaining house that features a hanging loft.

another view of house
Image courtesy of Bay Bridge House Project

The house, if built, would overlook the new Bay Bridge, according to project plans.

The structure "would look like a modern contemporary house with a green roof system and solar panels to provide power," the group's website says. "Rainwater reclamation would be used to store water for use with the green roof and sewage systems."

Grieshaber said he is still working with officials to get the approval necessary for the dream repurposing project, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

However, he has admitted the process has become a “bureaucratic nightmare.”

The project site does not discuss the old structure's lead-paint challenge and many other logistics. For now, organizers are seeking partners, volunteers and donors.

Work Progresses

The original Bay Bridge opened in November 1936 and was severely damaged in an 1989 earthquake.

“A piece of history will be gone forever. Some of the bridge should remain behind for future generations to enjoy,” Grieshaber notes.

New bridge construction
©string_bass_dave via Flickr

The Bay Bridge opened in November 1936 and was replaced by a new bridge last year due to seismic risks.

While hundreds of thousands of tons of steel and concrete are slated to be shipped to recycling plants and steel mills around the world, Grieshaber said the pieces needed for the Bay Bridge House may not be torn down for another year.

Meanwhile, the historic span’s $6.4 billion replacement has faced a series of issues since its grand opening last fall, including broken bolts and leaking. The replacement span took over a decade to construct.

   

Tagged categories: Architecture; Bridges; Concrete; Construction; Demolition; Design; Lead paint abatement; Steel

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