Press Release

Stephanie Stone (415) 379-5121
Andrew Ng (415) 379-5123



The California Academy of Sciences is one of the world’s leading scientific and cultural institutions, home to an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and world-class research and education programs. The new design, which features a living roof, will integrate the Academy more sensitively into Golden Gate Park and make nature a part of the building’s structure. With its environmentally-sensitive design, the new building will be an expression of the Academy’s mission to explore, explain, and protect the natural world.

LEED Rating

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. Based on a wide range of green building technologies and strategies, the Academy was awarded the highest rating possible: LEED Platinum.

A Pilot Project

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.

Energy Efficient

The new Academy will consume 30-35% less energy than required by standard building code.

Heat and Humidity
  • Radiant floor heating reduces energy needs by 5-10%.
  • Heat recovery systems capture and utilize heat produced by HVAC equipment, reducing heating energy use.
  • The planted roof provides a superior thermal insulating layer for the building, reducing energy needs for air-conditioning.
  • High-performance glass is used throughout the building, reducing standard levels of heat absorption and decreasing the cooling load.
Natural Light and Ventilation
  • At least 90% of regularly occupied spaces have access to daylight and outside views, reducing energy use and heat gain from electric lighting.
  • The undulating roofline draws cool air into the open piazza at the center of the building, naturally ventilating the surrounding exhibit spaces. Skylights in the roof automatically open and close to vent hot air out through the tops of the domes.
  • The skylights are strategically placed to allow natural sunlight to reach the living rainforest and coral reef.
  • Motorized windows automatically open and shut to allow cool air into the building. Operable windows are also employed in staff offices.
Renewable Energy
  • A solar canopy around the perimeter of the roof containing 60,000 photovoltaic cells will supply almost 213,000 kWh of clean energy per year (at least 5% of the Academy's standard building energy needs), and prevent the release of more than 405,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
  • The multi-crystalline cells are the most energy efficient cells on the market, achieving at least 20% efficiency.
  • In addition to on-site photovoltaics, the Academy has offset 1,350 MWh of its energy needs by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates, which are sourced from California solar projects and help support the renewable energy industry.
  • Sensor faucets in the bathrooms charge themselves with each use. Flowing water causes an internal turbine to generate power and charge the battery pack.
Water Efficiency
  • By absorbing rainwater, the new Academy's living roof will prevent up to 3.6 million gallons of runoff from carrying pollutants into the ecosystem each year (about 98% of all storm water).
  • 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%.
  • Low-flow fixtures have reduced overall potable water use by 40%.
  • Nitrate wastes in live animal exhibits are purified with natural systems, ensuring that aquarium water can be recycled.
Recycled Building Materials
  • Over 90% of the demolition waste from the old Academy was recycled. 9,000 tons of concrete were reused in Richmond roadway construction, 12,000 tons of steel were recycled and went to Schnitzer Steel, and 120 tons of greenwaste were recycled on site.
  • At least 50% of the wood in the new Academy was sustainably harvested and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
  • Recycled steel was used for 100% of the building’s structural steel.
  • The insulation installed in the building’s walls is made from recycled blue jeans. The product contains 85% post-industrial recycled content and uses cotton, a rapidly renewable resource, as one of its main ingredients.
  • All concrete contains 30% fly ash, a by-product of coal-fired power plants. It also contains 20% slag, a waste product from metal smelting. This use of recycled content prevented the release of more than 5,375 tons of carbon emissions.
The Living Roof
  • A new link in an ecological corridor for wildlife, the new Academy's living roof is planted with nine native California species. The planted area measures 2.5 acres; it is now the largest swath of native vegetation in San Francisco.
  • Approximately 1.7 million plants blanket the living roof.
  • The native plants provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Beach strawberries (Fragaria chiloensis) produce berries that attract native birds, self heal (Prunella vulgaris) bears large tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds and bumble bees, sea pink (Armeria maritime) produces pom-pom-like flowers favored by moths and butterflies, stonecrop (Sedum spathulitholium) produces nectar for the threatened San Bruno elfin butterfly, tidy tips (Layia platyglossa) attract parasitic wasps and pirate bugs that feed on pest insects, miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor) and California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) provide nectar for bees and butterflies, California plantain (Plantago erecta) hosts a variety of butterfly larvae, and the bright yellow flowers produced by Goldfield plants (Lasthenia californica) attract a wide variety of beneficial native insects.
  • The new Academy provides secure bicycle parking at the front and back entrances, as well as an electric car recharging station at the loading dock. Staff members are compensated for using public transportation.
  • Local materials and products manufactured within 500 miles of the Academy account for at least 20% of building materials used. This reduces transportation impacts and supports the regional economy.
Project Team

Architecture: Renzo Piano Building Workshop (Genoa, Italy); Stantec Architecture (formerly Chong Partners Architecture) (San Francisco, CA). Exhibit Design: Cinnabar (Los Angeles, CA), Hodgetts&Fung (Culver City, CA), and Tim Martin Design (Los Angeles, CA). Content Development: Darcie Fohrman Associates (Monterey, CA). African Hall Diorama Fabrication: Academy Studios (Novato, CA). Exhibits Project Manager: Rhodes/Dahl ( Charleston , SC ). General Contractor: Webcor Builders (San Mateo, CA).