California Academy of Sciences

Project Profiles

California Academy of Sciences

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Bill Browning and his team at Rocky Mountain Institute helped craft sustainability strategies for the new California Academy of Sciences, a 450,000 SF high-performance building in San Francisco. Designed by Renzo Piano with a team that included Chong Partners Architecture (now Stantec) and Arup, the building opened in autumn 2008 and earned a LEED Platinum rating from the US Green Building Council.

Dune ecosystem green roof. Copyright aaron_anderer/Flickr.

Dune ecosystem green roof. Copyright aaron_anderer/Flickr.

The California Academy of Sciences is a 150-year old institution dedicated to scientific research and public education. Working with the Academy’s Board of Trustees, major donors, and the design team, Bill’s team pushed for design strategies and solutions that would reinforce the Academy’s mission “to explore, explain, and protect the natural world.” Key strategies for sustainable design included daylighting and natural ventilation of the Academy’s main pavilion, which was conceived of as an integral part of Golden Gate Park, the natural area surrounding the site. Using a holistic approach that ranged from planning decisions to exhibit design, the building was able to achieve excellent energy efficiency despite the diversity of spaces and exhibits.

The building’s sustainable design solutions merge environmental performance with human comfort and a strong sense of place. For example, the building’s extensive green roof not only insulates the building, but also mimics the dune ecosystem that would have occupied the site 150 years ago, at the time of the Academy’s founding. With a form developed using computational fluid dynamics, the green roof is both functional and a defining aesthetic element of the project.

 

*Header image copyright WolfmanSF