Press Release

Award Presented to Academy in Recognition of Innovative "Green" Design for New Facility
Design is a Model for Environmentally-Sensitive Construction and a "Living" Science Museum
New California Academy of Sciences Opens to Public in late 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (September 30, 2005) — The California Academy of Sciences has been selected as the North American winner of the silver Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction in recognition of the innovative “green” design of its new facility in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The Academy is the sole U.S. winner of a top-level Holcim Award. The California Academy of Sciences is one of the world’s preeminent natural history museums and an international leader in research on the natural world and conservation science.

The competition — organized by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction in collaboration with five of the world’s leading technical universities — promotes sustainable approaches to the built environment. The Holcim Awards are judged by an independent 12-person jury, including leading architects, engineers, and university professors. Globally, more than 1,500 projects from 118 countries were submitted .

The California Academy's dynamic new exhibition, education, and research facility is designed by architect Renzo Piano with local partner Stantec Architecture (formerly Chong Partners Archtiecture). The design is inspired by the Academy's natural setting in Golden Gate Park and incorporates advanced, environmentally-sensitive “green” construction and building technology. ARUP, an international design firm that has worked extensively in integrated sustainable planning and design, provided sustainability consulting and engineering design services, including structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, façade, and lighting design. The building extends the Academy’s mission to tell the story of science and foster greater awareness of – and solutions for – the environmental challenges that affect our remarkable but fragile planet.

“We are deeply honored to receive the Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction for our project to rebuild the California Academy of Sciences,” said Academy Executive Director and Curator Dr. Patrick Kociolek . “The mission of the Academy is to explore, explain, and protect the natural world, and I believe there is no more important place to live up to those ideals than in our own building. We are literally reinventing the Academy from the ground up, using energy-efficient, environmentally-sensitive construction technologies to set a new standard for what a “green” museum can be. Our goal is to create a new Academy building that will not only hold powerful exhibitions, but serve as one itself, inspiring people to help protect our astonishing planet.”

The new 410,000-square-foot-facility is slated to open to the public in late 2008; the estimated cost of the project is $488 million. The Academy’s previous facility is being replaced due to the inability of the old structures to accommodate up-to-date exhibitions, education services, and scientific research initiatives, and because of damage sustained during the Loma Prieta earthquake.

A striking element of the new Academy will be a “living roof” spanning more than two acres covered with living, native plant species. In project architect Renzo Piano’s words, the roof’s design is like “lifting up a piece of the park and putting a building under it.” The roof will be an integral part of the Academy’s exhibition program, providing an iconic design as well as ecological and energy efficiency benefits for the environment. A portion of the roof will be accessible to visitors, allowing an up-close view of the roof-top environment and providing the opportunity for educational programs on green architecture and other topics.

The Academy’s aquarium, planetarium, and rainforest exhibition spaces will be discernible from the exterior as subtle elevations in the undulating roofline, symbolizing the interconnectedness of these systems as interdependent parts of the natural world. The design will return one acre of land to Golden Gate Park , and the height of the new building will not exceed that of the previous structure.

Through its design, the new Academy will both minimize impacts on the natural environment. Saltwater for the aquariums will be piped in from the Pacific Ocean and natural systems will be used to purify wastes in the aquarium water so it can be recycled. Aquarium tanks have been designed to be interchangeable and reusable, which avoids waste and facilities maintenance. In addition, green cleaning programs and pesticide-free landscape management will both be utilized.

The new Academy will also embrace its environment through a number of other architectural features. The expansive windows of the new Academy will offer views out into Golden Gate Park , and for those outside, into the exhibition galleries. A partially glass-covered piazza at the center of the redesigned complex will serve as a social space and gathering place for visitors, Bay Area residents, and tourists. A system of retractable fabric screens will keep the piazza comfortable in both sun and rain. The Academy roof will project out slightly from the building, creating a sheltered, landscaped public green space. Further blending the line between the building and Golden Gate Park , the shelter is another symbol of the Academy’s symbiotic relationship with its natural environment. The canopied space will also shield the building from excessive light, thereby reducing the facility’s energy consumption.

A Model for Green Design and a Living Natural History Museum

The Academy is dedicated to exploring, explaining, and protecting natural habitats, beginning with a responsible approach to its own environment. The new Academy is one of ten pilot “green building” projects of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, part of a vanguard initiative to develop models for workable, sustainable public architecture. The new Academy will optimize use of resources, minimize environmental impacts, and serve as an educational model by demonstrating how humans can live and work in environmentally-responsible ways. The new facility will integrate architecture and landscape, and help set a new standard for energy efficiency and environmentally responsible engineering systems in a public, architecturally distinguished building.

There are varying shades of green as measured by the U.S. Green Building Council through its LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system. Through all aspects of design, construction, and building operations, the Academy will strive to achieve the highest possible rating: LEED platinum. The LEED rating system is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for evaluating high-performance, sustainable buildings. The incremental cost of meeting this standard is less than 1% of the building budget.

The new building will feature numerous functions that will minimize the structure’s environmental impact and increase its self-sufficiency, including:

Water Efficiency

While standard buildings make little effort to capture or treat storm water runoff, which carries salt, sand, soil, pesticides, fertilizers, oil, litter, and other pollutants into nearby ecosystems, the green roof of the new Academy will reduce this runoff by at least 50% (up to 2 million gallons of water per year).

Reclaimed water from the City of San Francisco will be used to flush the toilets, reducing the use of potable water for wastewater conveyance by 90%. Overall potable water use will be 30% less than baseline.

The new aquariums will use saltwater piped in from the Pacific Ocean through Golden Gate Park. Natural systems will be used to purify nitrate wastes, ensuring that aquarium water can be recycled.

Energy Efficiency

The new Academy will consume 30% less energy than federal requirements.

60,000 photo voltaic cells in the roof will supply almost 213,000 kWh of energy annually, or about 5% of the new Academy’s energy needs, and prevent the release of more than 405,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2), the equivalent of planting over 340 trees.

The roof will include evacuated tube solar panels, which could generate up to 50% of the hot water demand for the entire site.

The partially planted roof provides a thermal insulating layer for the building that will help prevent overheating during the summer months and reduce energy needs for air-conditioning.

Natural Light and Ventilation

While the Academy will use new “green” technologies, it will also take advantage of simple, traditional engineering techniques involving use of natural light and ventilation.

At least 90% of regularly occupied spaces will have access to daylight and outside views, reducing energy use and heat gain from electric lighting. Lighting controls will include dimming, linked to the external light level, to ensure that a minimum of electric lighting is used at all times.

The new building will make extensive use of natural ventilation to minimize energy consumption from air-conditioning. The roof was developed in close collaboration with a team of specialists who analyzed computer-generated models of air circulation to devise a natural ventilation system that will drive increased airflow and remove heat. In addition, operable windows in the offices will provide fresh air.

Recycled Building Materials

100% of demolition waste from the old Academy has been recycled so far, including 9,000 tons of concrete, 12,000 tons of metal, and 120 tons of greenwaste.

The new building will be composed of recycled and renewable materials, such as “sustainably harvested” wood, concrete, glass, and steel — 100% of the structural steel used will be recycled steel.

At least 50% of the wood in the new Academy will be sustainably harvested and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Indoor Environmental Quality

In addition to enabling the Academy to use approximately 50 percent less energy than California codes allow a standard building to consume, windows that can be opened will also improve interior air quality. The design team is carefully selecting healthy, non-toxic building materials that do not cause indoor air pollution. The improved indoor environment will benefit both visitors and staff.

Native Landscaping

Covered with approximately 1.7 million native California plants, the green roof will both blend with the surrounding Golden Gate Park and increase biodiversity by offering habitat for honeybees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other creatures.

About the California Academy of Sciences

Since 1853, the California Academy of Sciences has been dedicated to exploring, explaining, and protecting the natural world. The Academy – which celebrated its 150 th anniversary in 2003 – is the oldest scientific institution in the West and one of the oldest in the nation. Today, it is one of the largest natural history museums in the country, and it is the only one in the nation to include both an aquarium and planetarium.

The Academy of Sciences provides scientific knowledge and expertise to visiting scientists, educators, adults, students, parents, children, conservation organizations, government leaders, and the media.The Academy has a research staff of 30 Ph.D.-level scientists – supported by more than 100 Research and Field Associates and over 300 Fellows – who launch dozens of expeditions each year to explore the natural world and discover more about our planet. It has eight scientific research departments in the fields of anthropology, aquatic biology, botany, entomology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate zoology and geology, and ornithology and mammalogy. The Academy’s research collections, which are among the world’s largest, include more than 18 million specimens - essential tools for comparative studies on the history and future of the natural world.

About the Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The Renzo Piano Building Workshop has emerged as one of the leading offices for museum projects in the United States. In addition to the new Academy project, Piano is currently working on new designs for the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The firm, which has offices in Paris and Genoa (Italy), has also been selected to design the New York Times Building, a new satellite campus for New York’s Columbia University, and the London Bridge Tower. Among his completed projects are the Menil Collection Museum in Houston, the Beyeler Foundation Museum in Basel , the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, the Kansai Air Terminal in Osaka, and the reconstruction of the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. His buildings show a sensitivity for the design, habitability, and sustainability of structures. Renzo Piano is a winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize – considered to be the architectural equivalent of the Nobel Prize. On the Academy project, Piano is collaborating with San Francisco-based Stantec Architecture (formerly Chong Partners Architecture).

About ARUP

Since 1946, Arup has been integrating environmental stewardship and social purpose into all its projects and helping clients plan for a more sustainable future. With 7000 staff in 70 offices in 32 countries, Arup is recognized for bringing innovative vision to projects and communities around the globe.

About the Holcim Foundation and the Holcim Award

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction promotes innovative approaches to sustainable construction mainly through international Awards competitions. Architectural excellence and enhanced quality of life are integral parts of the Holcim Foundation’s vision of sustainable construction. This year the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction is recognizing winners in five regions: Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa Middle East, and Asia Pacific. The best projects from each region will participate automatically in the global Awards competition to be celebrated in April 2006 in Bangkok.

The Holcim Awards are judged by an independent jury comprising leading architects, engineers, and university professors. The 12-person jury used as a measure the five criteria for sustainable construction that the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction has adopted. These criteria were defined in collaboration with leading technical universities including the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (Switzerland) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA). The criteria range from environmental and aesthetic quality to high ethical and economic standards.

The Holcim Foundation is supported by, but independent of, the commercial interests of Holcim, one of the world’s leading suppliers of cement, aggregates (crushed stone, gravel and sand), concrete and construction-related services. The Group holds majority and minority interests in more than 70 countries on all continents.

For more information on the Holcim Foundation or the Holcim Awards, please contact:
Edward Schwarz
Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
Hagenholzstrasse 85
CH-8050 Zürich/Switzerland
Phone +41 58 858 82 92
Mobile +41 79 433 99 33


The California Academy of Sciences is home to Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium and the Kimball Natural History Museum. The Academy is in the midst of an extensive rebuilding project in Golden Gate Park. Pritzker prize-winning architect Renzo Piano is designing the new Academy, which is scheduled to open on September 27, 2008. (415) 379-8000.

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