March 19, 2014
Bay Bridge House
David Grieshaber was disturbed about the fate of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. To him the bridge, built between 1933 and 1936, is a part of history—an artifact—that should not be forgotten nor completely wafted-away by the drafts of progress. Around eighteen months ago, Grieshaber concocted an idea of how to preserve part of the […]
David Grieshaber was disturbed about the fate of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. To him the bridge, built between 1933 and 1936, is a part of history—an artifact—that should not be forgotten nor completely wafted-away by the drafts of progress. Around eighteen months ago, Grieshaber concocted an idea of how to preserve part of the bridge and its memory: reuse the materials from the deconstructed bridge and build a house modeled after the original structure with pavement floors, a steel frame, and suspension-wiring further supporting the design. Grieshaber started the non-profit BayBridgeHouse, which has blueprinted designs for the eco-friendly and public, housing and multi-use structure using pieces of the bridge’s old Eastern span which is currently undergoing deconstruction.
In 2002, the State of California embarked upon one of the largest public works project in history by constructing a new Bay Bridge to replace the old 8-mile bridge connecting San Francisco and Oakland, at a cost of over $6 billion.
Grieshaber claims that the steel, lead, and other materials from the old bridge were to be shipped to foreign entities as scrap metal. “It has been part of our area for the past 70 years and it is going to be gone,” Grieshaber said. “I found it quite disappointing that the company Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) sold it to an organization who had decided to just sell off the natural resources and historic artifact of ours, to another country and had decided not to keep very much of it here at all. It was being scrapped as a bulk resource and sold off to mainly Asia.” The contractors, California Engineering Contractors Inc. working in a joint venture with Silverado Contractors, for work on the bridge have a contract with Schnitzer Steel to take the steel from the Eastern Span of the bridge. As of this week, Schnitzer Steel has not yet received most of the steel from the deconstruction nor has Schnitzer Steel yet sold the steel to clients in Asia.
Grieshaber wanted, at least some of the metals, to stay in the United Sates and originally wanted to use some of the metal for himself. “I just wanted to make a 3000 square foot house out of it. That was the goal,” Grieshaber said. But the state of California wasn’t going to let the technology entrepreneur, CEO of Techgolf, just take state resources and build a personal home with them. Why would they? When any revenue gleamed from sold materials was to be used to lower contracting cost of the new bridge.
“It’s a bureaucratic nightmare,” seems to be Grieshaber’s go-to phrase when speaking about California state regulations and their enforcing government departments. “Because they are standing there with their hands in their pockets, and no one wants to deal with it. They'll say, ‘nice idea;’ but that's as far as it goes with them because they don’t want their hands in dirt, to touch something that could potentially be any kind of degradation to their integrity,” Grieshaber said.
Grieshaber, to get what he wanted, needed to bypass appearances of personal interest, “After speaking with many different people and organizations throughout the Bay Area it shifted to a ‘well, why don’t you make it something that the public can enjoy besides yourself and make it eco-friendly,’” Grieshaber said. “We added all of the green aspects of the thing and then it became ‘well, why don’t you make it finically self-sustainable as well and create a public company, a .org, non-profit, and have the facility actually create income so it can pay for itself so you’re not a burden upon the city, or state, or tax payers.’ I thought ‘wow that’s a great idea.’” And that’s what he did and was informed that he needed to show designs and blueprints for the potential structure.
The BayBridgeHouse held a student design competition. Seventy-four students representing thirty-four architecture and design schools submitted designs. The members of the winning team, “Hanging House,” were hired by BayBridgeHouse.org as interns, “We took their design and we had to scrap it all completely,” said Grieshaber noting restrictions that the student design did not account for such as curb easements, height restrictions, and material restrictions, “But we still wanted their design features, their flow and feel of their whole design that they built.”
Grieshaber is currently waiting for the deconstruction of the old bay bridge to be completed; his needed material—steel, wiring, asphalt…etc.—are still welded together above the San Francisco Bay’s blue water. Grieshaber will not release the names of his colleagues involved with the BayBridgeHouse.org or the names of organizations currently partnered with the non-profit. “Well, we have to wait for the pieces to come down first, so it could be another year from now before anything actually takes action on this,” Grieshaber said.