SF Tower Doubles as Forecaster

Rincon Hill gets new weather beacon

By John Boitnott
|  Wednesday, Dec 10, 2008  |  Updated 11:59 AM PDT
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Rincon Hill Becomes Weather Forecaster

When the tower glows green, rain is foreseen. But you should head to NBCBayarea.com for all the details.

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The builders of the new, omnipresent, Rincon Hill Tower in San Francisco have announced the creation of a "new crown" on the building that takes the form of a weather beacon.

The communications company hired to do press releases for the Rincon Hill Development says the Rincon Hill Weather Beacon is the first in the Bay Area.

"The Rincon Hill Weather Beacon…carries the tradition of other tall buildings worldwide which have used their height and prominence to provide the local weather forecast in a code of colored or flashing lights," the press release read.

"It also pays homage to the former Bank of America Clock Tower (originally the Union 76 Clock Tower), previously a fixture on the site where One Rincon Hill’s residential condos now rise, and where residents and visitors once looked to Rincon Hill for  “timely” but useful daily information from a digital clock," the statement read.

The beacon is designed to give a weather forecast to anyone in the Bay Area who can see it.

“It’s our gift to San Francisco and the Bay Area in time for the holiday season,” said David Kriozere, principal of Urban West Associates, the developer of One Rincon Hill.

The beacon is set approximately an hour before dusk each evening and runs throughout the night. It provides a basic forecast for the general public and does not act as an aid to navigation.

Other beacons in history determined the Rincon Hill Weather Beacon's color code, designers said.

The colors and their meanings are: red: warmer weather on the way; blue: colder weather approaching; green: precipitation; and, amber: static, continuing weather.

To make the color code easier to remember, designers created this:
Glowing red, warmer weather ahead
Shining blue, colder weather in view
Going green, rain foreseen
Amber light, no change in sight

The amber hue is the base color and will be on the majority of the time, designers said.

The beacon will be on a timer and only be visible at night. The weather will be set once a day, approximately an hour prior to dusk.

"Important attention was made to make sure the top of the building, the crown, remained as a simple compliment to the San Francisco skyline,” said Chris Pemberton, vice president in the San Francisco office of Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB), the architects of One Rincon Hill.  “An amber hue represents static or unchanging weather and will likely glow most frequently, so we made sure to select something that works best with the ambient light emitting during the evening from the residences of One Rincon Hill.”

SCB worked with lighting designer experts from Los Angeles-based Francis Krahe & Associates Inc., to test the lights and shades.  Going forward, the team said it will monitor the lights to ensure the correct quality of light is maintained.

For the crown of One Rincon Hill, 25 highly-efficient “colorwash” by Tivoli color-changing LED floodlights were used, the energy equivalent of lighting your living room, designers said. 

The weather forecast will be updated once a day each evening, based on the most current forecast for San Francisco provided by the National Weather Service office in Monterey.

Rooftop weather beacons have been used since 1941, initially at the Empire State Building, but active beacons can be found today in Sacramento, Boston, Grand Rapids, Mich., and throughout the world.

The weather beacon is currently best visible looking westward onto San Francisco from the Bay, as the One Rincon Hill Phase I tower’s glass is on the south, east and north sides of the crown, and the shield on the west side blocks some light.

At One Rincon Hill’s planned Phase II tower, glass will be on the south, west and north sides of the crown.

Thus, the two buildings together will eventually offer a 360-degree lighting effect for the entire region. Many viewing angles from the north or south will enjoy the lighting from both beacons simultaneously.

The building of the second tower has been put on hold indefinitely due to lack of sales and the struggling housing market.

The Clock Tower Building stood on this site atop Rincon Hill, its triangular tower adorned with a digital clock.

The Clock Tower’s signage was UNION 76 from 1940-1993, and was replaced with Bank of America, the owner of the tower, in 1993.  The building was demolished in 2005 to make way for One Rincon Hill.

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