First-of-its-Kind Floating Fireboat Station Arrives at San Francisco’s Embarcadero


San Francisco woke up on Thursday morning to an innovative new structure along the waterfront. This highly anticipated design-build floating fireboat station was towed across the Bay from Treasure Island to the Embarcadero and anchored in place behind the historic Fire Station No. 35 at Pier 22½, nestled beside the Bay Bridge.

To reduce public impact and avoid disruption along the bustling Embarcadero, the 96-by-173-foot steel float and other marine components were delivered to Treasure Island back in January 2020, where building construction took place. The steel float, complete with its two-story building atop, was moved by tugboats into place on the Embarcadero early Thursday morning when the tides were just right.

While its arrival may appear sudden, a team of designers and builders have been working behind the scenes for four years. Swinerton-Power (the joint venture of Swinerton Builders and Power Engineering Construction Co.), Liftech Consultants Inc., and Shah Kawasaki Architects designed and built this first-of-its-kind floating fire station.

The float across the Bay represents the culmination of the creativity and persistence from the projects’ inception by the City and County of San Francisco to its completion by the Swinerton-Power joint venture design-build team.

“This is a major milestone and exemplifies San Francisco’s commitment to creating a more resilient city,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “The new Fireboat Station 35 will improve the Fire Department’s ability to meet our emergency response needs today and into the future.”

“The fireboat station has been designed for sustainability and resilience. It will rise and fall with the tides and climatic sea-level changes, always giving easy boat access to first responders,” said Alan Kawasaki, Principal of Shah Kawasaki Architects.

Simultaneous to design was the collection of permits for this first-ever type of construction project. Expanding over the water might seem like a great solution to lack of land; however, in San Francisco where encroachment into the Bay is highly protected, the permitting process was thoughtful and lengthy. The project was reviewed by 17 different agencies ranging from neighborhood advisory committees to The Port of San Francisco and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

“The entitlement process, intertwined with the unique location, required exact planning, documentation, and execution at every step of the project,” said David Mik, President of Power Engineering Construction Co. and Project Executive of the Swinerton-Power joint venture project.

The building itself also fulfills many long-awaited needs of the Fire Department. It increases accommodations for 24-hour SFFD staff, and for the first time, offers female firefighters separate and equal accommodations. It also brings all the Fire Station 35 rescue assets into a single location with immediate emergency access.

“I am proud to see Fireboat Station 35 in its permanent home position and for our team to have been a part of this exceptionally resilient collaborative project from the start,” said Terry McKellips, Vice President of Swinerton.

This project is funded by the San Francisco voters-approved 2014 Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond and is managed on behalf of the City’s Fire Department by San Francisco Public Works, working in combination with Swinerton-Power.

For project updates, visit the Swinerton-Power website and the San Francisco Public Works’ Fireboat Station No. 35 webpage.

About Swinerton
Swinerton provides commercial construction and construction management services throughout the United States and is a 100% employee-owned company. Recognized nationally since 1888, Swinerton is the preferred builder and trusted partner in every market it serves—proudly leading with integrity, passion, and excellence.

About Power Engineering Construction Co.
Power Engineering Construction Co. is an engineering and construction firm whose specialty is construction of complex marine and civil projects including piers, marinas, outfalls, deep foundations, and water treatment facilities.

About Shah Kawasaki Architects
Shah Kawasaki Architects is a community-based design firm serving the greater Bay Area and Northern California. One of the firm’s specialties is designing public safety facilities. The firm has designed over two dozen fire stations in the last 10 years.

About Liftech Consultants
Liftech Consultants is an Oakland-based structural engineer that has specialized in marine structures and industrial and commercial building design for over 50-years.

Marine Construction

Fireboats’ new Embarcadero station may be a floating pier

News: San Francisco Chronicle

By 2021, one of the most visible piers on San Francisco’s Embarcadero could be a streamlined fire station clad in white metal panels and perched atop a permanently docked barge.

First, though, the team officially selected last week by the city’s Department of Public Works to construct the $30 million facility just south of busy Rincon Park at Pier 22½ will need to run its conceptual plans by a whopping 17 city, state and federal agencies — not because of the unusual concept, but because that’s how things are done in the Bay Area.

“There’s going to be a lot of scrutiny in how this relates to its surroundings. We understand that,” says Alan Kawasaki of Oakland’s Shah Kawasaki Architects.

Kawasaki’s firm is part of the design-build team that would replace San Francisco’s current fireboat pier, bare except for a wooden shed from 1987 that lacks living quarters, adequate storage space and just about everything else. The team, led by Swinerton Builders and Power marine engineering, would also restore the landmarked 1915 fire station that’s nestled against the Embarcadero, a white stucco box with a red terra-cotta tiled roof where firefighters now sleep in cramped quarters above the fire truck.

It’s a fascinating project in large part because of the city’s desire to go with a floating structure, rather than a conventional pier — an approach prompted by concerns about the likelihood of sea-level change.

By 2070, for instance, the city’s accepted projections are that the average high tide here will climb roughly 18 inches. Add heavy storms and high winds and we could see waves surging nearly 4 feet above the level of the current pier.

And every scientifically accepted projection has those levels continuing to climb, decade after decade.

“Looking at what we’re faced with … this feels like the right approach,” says Mohammed Nuru, director of the city’s Department of Public Works. “Sea-level rise is a real issue for the city. I strongly believe doing a barge anchored to piers will accommodate that.”