The new California Academy of Sciences building features a contoured, vegetated roof bordered by a cantilevered steel canopy of glazed panels that include more than 55,000 photovoltaic cells. The cells are designed to generate approximately 5 percent of the building’s electricity needs.
Under One Green Roof
emy of Sciences’ new home, which is being referred to as the greenest museum in the world because of its undulating, 2.5 acre (1 ha) vegetated roof and a variety of other environmentally benign features, began with a few sweeping sketches made in green ink. The artist was Renzo Piano, the Pritzker Architecture Prize–winning founder of Renzo Piano Building Workshop, s.r.l., based in Paris and Genoa, Italy. The year was 1999, and Piano was one of several internationally renowned architects whom the academy’s board of trustees had invited to San Francisco to submit proposals for the project. While the other designers had brought along elaborate three-dimensional models of their proposals, Piano “decided to come out a couple of days early and just sketch some ideas,” explains Lawrence Chambers, p.e., an associate in the San Francisco office of the international engineering firm Arup. When the academy ultimately selected Piano’s vision, Arup was chosen to turn the design architect’s rolling green lines into the iconic “living” roof of the academy’s new home, Chambers notes. Arup was also responsible for the structural engineering of the building beneath the vegetated roof, as well C i v i l E n g i n e e r i n g 
The new California Academy of Sciences building, in San Francisco, has been called the greenest museum in the world because of its undulating, 2.5 acre (1 ha) vegetated roof, its emphasis on environmental sustainability, and its energysaving technologies. The innovative structure combines a natural history museum, an aquarium, a planetarium, and scientific research operations within one facility. B y R o B e Rt L. R e i d
he design of the California Acad-
as for the seismic and fire protection systems, the mechani- certification possible—platinum—in the U.S. Green Buildcal and electrical systems, the facade systems, the building’s ing Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Deacoustics, and the numerous energy-saving features. sign (leed) Green Building Rating System. At 410,000 sq Stantec Architecture (formerly Chong Partners Archi- ft (38,000 m²), the structure is the largest public building tecture), of San Francisco, served as the local architect for in the world to achieve platinum certification, and it “stands as an embodiment of the Academy’s mission the project. Located in San Francisco’s Golden to explore, explain, and protect the natural The academy’s $484-million building opened in late September 2008 after nine Gate Park on the site of the acade- world,” according to a press statement that years of design and construction, and dur- my’s original campus of 11 buildings, announced the structure’s leed status. the new structure provides more The new building replaces the original ing those years the museum’s exhibits were housed elsewhere around the city. In devel- usable square footage while occupy- academy facility, a campus of 11 structures oping the structure and its various inno- ing a smaller footprint because of clustered in San Francisco’s Golden Gate vative features, the design team consulted the inclusion of additional basement Park that were built between 1916 and 1976. with such diverse sources as roller-coaster areas, a more efficient configuration Many of those structures had been severedesigners and the suppliers of hospital air- of the interior space, and alterations ly damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake, to the driveway approaches and which struck in 1989; some had been closed handling systems. A popular and critical success, the new landscaping. The new design enabled to the public since the temblor, and it was museum has...
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