Green roof provides the centrepiece to California Academy of Sciences' lush surroundings
Located in the heart of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the new California Academy of Sciences replaces an outmoded, earthquake-damaged complex of buildings with a remarkable new urban facility that promotes the Academy’s goals to 'explore, explain and protect the natural world'. As demonstrated by early record crowds, the Academy is expected to attract millions of visitors from local, national, and international audiences, thereby reconfirming its historic importance as the oldest scientific institution in the west and setting a bold model for integration of sustainable technology, natural systems, design innovation, and public education.
Under the sculptural form of a 2.5-acre living roof, the 400,000 sq ft museum houses the Steinhart Aquarium (the oldest such facility in the U.S.) and Morrison Planetarium as well as 18 million scientific specimens, over 10,000 live animals, space for education and research, and brand new exhibits such as a multi-level, glass-enclosed rainforest dome. As part of the design teams’ commitment to sustainability, the new building reduces the former facility’s physical footprint and surrounding pavement by approximately 1.5 acres creating space for new gardens that transition to adjacent mature parkland.
Since it opened in September 2008, the 'greenest museum in the world' has become the only such facility to have earned LEED Platinum certification. The living roof has proved to be a highlight interpretive attraction that is introducing visitors to a living experiment in native plant restoration in the midst of a major city. In addition to a comprehensive set of technologies relating to building systems - from water recycling in the basement-level aquaria to synchronised ventilation openings in the building curtain walls and roof domes - the key features relating to landscape sustainability include the self-sustaining living roof that captures storm water, improves air quality by creating and scrubbing oxygen, mitigates microclimatic anomalies, and provides habitat values for migratory and local wildlife.