Build San Francisco Institute

The Architectural Foundation of San Francisco has created the Build San Francisco Institute, a half day high school program for students interested in design, construction, engineering and architecture. The Build San Francisco Institute is a unique community educational partnership, involving AFSF, San Francisco Unified School District and more than two dozen major San Francisco firms. The program combines a rigorous academic program with mentorships in the partner firms, so that students not only gain new knowledge, but also have the immediate experience of applying that knowledge in a real world setting.


Begun as an after school program sponsored by the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco, the Build San Francisco Institute has evolved into a full partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District as an integral part of the city’s public high school program. This program is the result of a fifteen year process that saw the program evolve from a six week summer mentorship experience into a fully accredited academic program.

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The Build San Francisco Institute offers fully accredited courses in Architectural Design and Urban Studies. Students work on real problems using the real tools professionals use, including such state of the art software programs as Autodesk 3DS Max and Autodesk Revit Architecture. In addition, it provides every student who joins the program with a mentorship with a major San Francisco architecture, engineering, construction or interior design firm and key civic agencies. Students may earn up to fifteen units of high school credit each semester. All credits earned appear on the students high school transcript and are approved by the University of California for college admission.

How to Enroll


The program is open to any San Francisco high school junior or senior, sixteen years of age or older. Interested students should contact their high school counselor and ask to be enrolled in the program. They then should download the application form, complete it and take it to their high school counselor to arrange their schedule of classes.

Download Enrollment Form

Becoming a Mentor

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Every Every Build San Francisco student receives credit by working with a mentor two afternoons each week. Mentors are working professionals who are paired with students that are interested in the work of that profession. Mentors meet regularly with the students and give students a first-hand look by involving them in the work of their firm. The Build San Francisco program has met with strong support from the entire building community including architects, engineers, general contractors, developers and policy organizations. We need your assistance in this effort to offer this opportunity to an increasing number of students. If you or your firm is interested in becoming a mentor, please email Will Fowler at

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Build SF Projects:

Every year Build SF students undertake a design problem based on current events in San Francisco and around the world. Some project examples are listed below:

The Mars Metropolis Project

In 2014 Build SF students joined an international team of schools including schools in Australia and the United Kingdom to research and design a sustainable community for the planet Mars. Working with scientists at Jet Propulsion Laboratories, the students are creating animations and videos explaining their solutions to the difficult problem of creating an extra terrestrial habitat. This is an ongoing project, with new schools contributing their solutions throughout the year. The 2014-2015 class of Build SF will also participate in a new round of discovery and design. To learn more about the Mars Metropolis Project Follow this link:

Mars Metropolis Project


Other Exemplary Projects Include:


The Tiles Project

In 2006, Build San Francisco instructor Casey Brennan and her students participated in the redesign of San Francisco’s Pier 14, by designing and creating sixteen ceramic tile installations for the pier. To learn more about this project download the tiles newsletter produced by the students.

The Hewlett Performance Space Project

Students in the 2008-09 Build San program conducted a survey of local performance spaces. Funded through a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Build SF students created video reports on two important San Francisco venues: The Ninth Street Media Center and the Brava Theatre. We have placed these videos online at YouTube

The Uptown Putt Project


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Once again Build SF has been featured in a national publication – this time on the George Lucas Educational Foundation website. The learning potential of the AFSF Uptown Putt indoor golf course, with holes designed by students, attracted their attention and they have made it one of four focus areas of innovative education programs around the nation. Titled “A New Day for Learning 2” the site features Build SF curriculum, video interviews of staff, AFSF Board members, and mentors, and articles about the program. Visit the site here.


Participating Firms Include:

Anshen + Allen

Architectural Resources Group

Bullard’s Heating and Air

C&B Consulting Engineers

CCI Commercial Constructions and Improvements

Cahill Contractors

Carey and Co. Architecture

Farella Braun & Martell

Flack + Kurtz

Fog City Asbuilts

Ford Graphics

Forell/Elsesser Engineers Inc.

450 Architects

Gate Capital Properties



Guttman & Blaevoet

Hannum Associates

Hirsch-Bedner Associates

Holmes Culley

Hornberger + Worstell

KMD Architects

Lend Lease



Murphy Burr Curry Inc.

Page & Turnbull

Perkins + Will

Plant Construction

Pollack Architecure

The Port of San Francisco

Primus Infrastructure

RAPT Studio

Rollo and Ridley

RMW Architecture & Interiors

Santos & Urrutia

Severson & Werson

SMWM Architecture

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

S.J. Amoroso Construction

Swinerton Builders


Timmons Design Engineers

Tom Eliot Fisch

Treadwell & Rollo


AFSF’s Build San Francisco Institute is part of the SFUSD’s Secondary School Redesign Initiative (SSRI). SSRI is funded by grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other community organizations. The Build San Francisco Institute also receives support from the Every Child Can Learn Foundation, McGraw–Hill Construction, the San Francisco Foundation, the Marin Community Foundation, the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund, the California Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, Autodesk, IBM, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR), the Port of San Francisco, Hannum Associates, Tom Eliot Fisch, Hirsh Bedner Associates, Treadwell and Rollo, Swinerton Builders, S.J. Amoroso Construction Co., C & B Consulting, Page & Turnbull, Teknion, and Ford Graphics.


Non Discrimination Policy: San Francisco Unified School District. District programs, activities, and practices shall be free from unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying of any pupil based on the pupil’s actual race, color, ancestry, national origin, ethnic group identification, age, religion, marital or parental status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression; the perception of one or more of such characteristics; or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.  This policy applies to all acts related to school activity or school attendance occurring within a school under the jurisdiction of the superintendent of the school district (Education Code 234.1). 

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