Pass any construction site, and I bet you see a big sign that says something about SAFETY.
While 181 Fremont might be the safest building in the U.S. (more about that later), what has always fascinated me about the building is not what it is but how it got to be what it is. I’m talking about the lengths the folks at Heller Manus Architects and Level 10 Construction (General Contractor) went to protect the kiddies playing on a playground.
Did you know that there is a child care center playground (Marin Day School) atop the Town Hall restaurant building (built in 1907) at Howard and Fremont? It’s still there. To protect those kids, Level 10 spent thousands of dollars to ensure that a falling wrench, hammer, phone, etc. would not hurt anyone should it slip out of a worker’s grasp. I don’t know whether anything like that ever happened, but I am quite sure that no one connected with that development ever wanted to find out.
When we are in a high-rise, we are reminded NOT to use an elevator if there is a fire, right? Au contraire for 181 Fremont. The Thyssen Krupp company provided the elevators at 181. These elevators employ OEO (Occupant Evacuation Operation) technology that was an outgrowth of the 9/11 disaster. OEOs have safeguards that protect against water, heat and smoke from entering the elevator lobby or hoist way, and they can run on backup power. And when there is an emergency, alarm systems can activate OEO elevators to provide audible instructions to floor occupants.
So, if you are at 181 Fremont and there is a fire, head for an elevator. You’ll be safe: just like the kiddies atop Town Hall.