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Walk-on rooflights installed in breathtaking San Francisco roof terrace

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As locations go, this private residence certainly has one of the most sought-after zip codes in San Francisco! Sitting directly across from the St Francis Yacht Club on Marina Boulevard, this luxury property now boasts a stunning multi-level 1200 square foot roof terrace, offering breathtaking waterfront views. Designed by ODS Architecture (opens in new tab), based in the San Francisco Bay area, the roof terrace offers a glorious outdoor space, whilst the Glazing Vision Flushglaze walk-on rooflights (opens in new tab), (opens in new tab) imported specially from the UK, and interspersed in the decking, ensure that the bedroom suite floor below is bathed in diffused daylight.

Built in the 1920’s in the Spanish Mission style, this 3-storey property already offered an impressive 4000 square feet of space, but the homeowner wished to extend the house further, particularly looking to unlock the potential of the unused, run-down flat roof by adding a fully-operational outdoor kitchen as well as spacious dining and living areas. A viewing platform to take advantage of the views out over the marina was also on his wish list.

ODS Architecture was appointed by the homeowner in 2012 to undertake this ambitious project. Renowned for their contemporary approach to residential design, this project was, however, a new departure for the team at ODS – taking a traditional house and adding a modern twist to it. The brief to build a stylish roof terrace as well as to reconfigure the master bedroom floor posed a number of significant structural challenges. Firstly, changes to the historic façade of the property were not allowed by the State of California, plus any new construction had to be out of view of the street as much as possible. Furthermore, the close proximity of the neighbours’ houses on both sides compromised the amount of natural light (opens in new tab) entering the client’s home, and the inability to install windows because of insufficient clearance to the property line meant a regular upper floor extension in a traditional masonry sense was not going to be appropriate. Building a roof terrace (opens in new tab), or deck, is never an easy task but at Marina Boulevard, this was going to be particularly challenging as the silver-painted rooftop was in a state of disrepair.

ODS’s innovative design for a new multi-level, multi-functional roof terrace, incorporating a modernization of the third floor of the house, demanded highly creative construction techniques. General building contractor, Jeff King & Company (opens in new tab), (opens in new tab) working in close collaboration with  (opens in new tab)ODS (opens in new tab), re-framed the roof with new wooden supports, metal connectors and hardware to ensure that it could take the weight of the planned roof terrace. Vertical cables on the side of the house were made to fit.

Large roof terraces (opens in new tab) always require careful attention to waterproofing, and at Marina Boulevard, where old and new systems needed to be finely tuned in order to create a completely waterproof envelope, a high-tech waterproof system had to be devised. Additionally, the deck was laid with durable chip-, fade- and crack-resistant porcelain tiles that could be easily removed and replaced should there be a leak, or water damage in the future. They are also fireproof, an important feature given the type of appliances installed on the roof terrace and the closeness of the neighbouring properties to either side.

The lower tier of the roof terrace contains the impressive outdoor kitchen, resplendent with stainless steel Viking appliances and concrete counter tops, which are a nod to the stucco plaster walls of the old house. The dining area, complete with a large dining table, is adjacent to the kitchen and on the next tier there is small bar and a fire pit for alfresco entertaining. The “crow’s nest”, the viewing platform, is reached by a glass and timber stairwell, and was created by the contractor (opens in new tab) where the original roof was sloped. This level deck, based on a pedestal system that reaches up to 24 inches, is split into 4 quadrants to ensure proper drainage and is waterproofed to protect the sitting room below, which is accessed from both the master bedroom and the main deck. This room provides a contemporary, yet intimate space in which to relax and retreat should the weather prove inclement. It can be closed off by glazed sliding doors yet it is bright and airy, and offers a quiet peaceful zone to observe the marina.

A key consideration, however, for the architects and contractor in the design of the roof terrace was the need to unlock the daylight (opens in new tab) to the lower bedroom & bathroom suite floor, whilst simultaneously protecting the privacy of these intimate quarters. The original roof had 4 square-shaped skylights, which had allowed for natural light to enter the living space below. As the old roof was being covered with the new roof deck, and the old skylights removed, a glazing solution was required that would guarantee a direct source of daylight, and could utilise the original skylight apertures. Additionally, the glazing had to be sufficiently robust to be walk-able so as to not compromise the structure or the practicality of the deck itself, and it had to be able cope with inclement weather conditions, including heavy rainfall. Safety too was a critical factor in the selection of the glazing – it had to be safe underfoot.

After extensive research ODS specified a series of Flushglaze walk-on rooflights (opens in new tab), (opens in new tab)manufactured in England by Glazing Vision, a highly respected and innovative glazing specialist producing high-quality rooflights for the residential and commercial markets both in the UK and overseas. Unlike skylight products available in the USA, the Glazing Vision Flushglaze rooflights were designed and tested to withstand heavy foot traffic whilst maintaining watertight integrity. Architect, contractor and client all felt that these rooflights best met their exacting criteria.

The Flushglaze walk-on rooflights (opens in new tab) had the advantage of being able to be installed flush with the porcelain floor tiles used on the main roof terrace, making for a perfectly flat surface. A lack of any visible internal framework meant that, crucially, these rooflights would not spoil the visual effect – on the contrary they would enhance the contemporary appearance of the roof terrace, adding a distinct wow factor.

For the three rooflights located on the main deck the glazing had been specifically ordered with a sandblasted finish. This would result in a more diffused light entering the bedroom suite below, but would also improve obscurity, thereby offering greater privacy too, an important factor for the client given that the roof terrace would be used frequently for entertaining guests.

Additionally, the sandblasted finish (opens in new tab) provided better slip-resistance than standard glazing. Slip resistance is measured using mean Pendulum Test Values (PTV), with values of 25-35 deemed as having moderate slip risk and 36+ as a low slip risk. Glazing Vision’s sandblasted glass achieves a PTV of 50 as standard, well above the threshold of PTV 36 to be categorized as having a low-slip potential, and it was considered ideal for use at Marina Boulevard.

The fourth of the Glazing Vision Flushglaze walk-on rooflights, and the largest at 67 x 34 inches, was installed on the viewing platform, and unlike the other 3 rooflights, its glazing had a fritted finish. A screen-printed frit, that included particles within the ink to create a rough texture, was applied to the glass in a unique pattern to provide 40% coverage, significantly increasing the slip resistance of the glass. Indeed, fritted glass generally achieves a PTV of 60, thus providing an even better slip resistance than the sandblasted.

The generous size of the Glazing Vision Flushglaze walk-on rooflight (opens in new tab) on the viewing platform also ensured that daylight flooded the narrow walkway underneath, from which the adjacent master bedroom sitting room also benefited. Complimenting the contemporary staircase leading up from the main deck, this almost frameless rooflight stylishly combined with the IPE wood flooring to create a kind of nautical feel, a perfect environment from where to watch the Americas Cup race!

Whilst this challenging project took 2 ½ years to complete, the resulting roof terrace (opens in new tab) is testament to extraordinary teamwork. Indeed, as the contractor, Jeff King & Co (opens in new tab). explains, it was the result of the client, architect and contractor “working collaboratively to understand the design intent and to make sure that the craftsmanship realized the dream”. And, importantly for the State of California, this modern roof terrace is neither visible from the street, nor does it detract from the historic character of the neighbourhood. The success of this build earned Jeff King & Co. the 2016 Contractor of the Year award (Landscape design/outdoor living).

The roof terrace design is convincing in its simplicity, and the sensitivity to colour and materiality ensures it blends seamlessly with the rest of the house, so that when walking into the living space on the master suite floor, as Alan Ohashi of ODS proudly states, “one has the feeling that nothing had really happened” above. Architecture at its finest!

To find out more about design considerations for roof terraces, download our free guide today (opens in new tab)

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