55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
Regular Hours:


9:30 am – 5:00 pm


11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:


8:30 – 9:30 am


10:00 – 11:00 am

Please note: The Academy will be closing at 3:00 pm on 10/24 (final entry at 2:00 pm). We apologize for any inconvenience.

Parking and traffic in Golden Gate Park will be congested the weekend of Oct. 3–5. Save $3 on Academy admission when you take public transportation.

Our Green Practices

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The total message of the building is a green message. It’s about life, how we got here, the marvelous diversity of life, its preciousness, and the choices we face in learning how to stay.
—Dr. Gregory C. Farrington, Ph.D., Executive Director
California Academy of Sciences

The Academy's commitment to a sustainable future informs every facet of the organization - from scientific research to exhibit design to educational outreach to day-to-day operational policies and practices.

Clay Pot

Below is the Academy's official statement on sustainability recently approved by the Academy's board of directors:

"Sustainability is often defined as meeting current human needs without endangering our descendants. There is a broad, scientific consensus that our current environmental demands are unsustainable, causing climate change, degradation of natural habitats, loss of species, and shortages of essential resources.
The California Academy of Sciences’ mission to explore, explain, and sustain life compels the Academy to engage in scientific research relevant to sustainability, to raise public awareness about these urgent problems, and to minimize its own environmental impact.
The Academy’s green building signifies its commitment to sustainability. The culture and internal practices mirror that commitment in the areas of energy, water, waste management, transportation, purchasing and food.  Academy programs highlight the living world and its connection to the changing global environment .  Academy research focuses on the origins and maintenance of life’s diversity, and its expeditions roam the world, gathering scientific data to answer the questions, “How has life evolved, and how can it be sustained?"

Dr. Gregory Farrington

Below are excerpts from an interview recently conducted with Academy Executive Director,  Dr. Gregory C. Farrington, Ph.D.

What are the big-picture ideas that scientists must focus on?

“The Academy's mission is to explore, explain, and protect the natural world. This mission includes two of the most important issues of our time. First, how did life on Earth develop? How did we get here? Second, how will we find a way to stay? How will we sustain life on Earth?”

Isn't that controversial?

“Almost every issue that is important is controversial in some way and to some people. The scientific basis for life and its evolution becomes clearer every day. The technological options we have to sustain life on Earth continue to develop. What is really controversial has to do with the implications of the life sciences and sustainability choices for people, society, and governments. The evolution of life and its sustainability present major challenges to how we like to think of ourselves—our religious beliefs, our sense of uniqueness, and the economic choices we face for our future and the future of all people. These issues will not be easy to resolve, and yes, they will be very controversial.”

What role can the Academy play?

“We can serve as an honest broker in the debates that will have to occur around the choices society faces regarding sustainability. We can help provide education about the science surrounding these issues. We can spotlight important areas where further investigation is needed. But make no mistake: The California Academy stands for the central importance of scientific investigation and the scientific process in resolving critical questions.”

What activities might the Academy sponsor?

“The Academy can host symposia, sponsor discussions, and gather the best scientists from around the world and give them a venue to communicate to people their research and findings. The California Academy of Sciences—and natural history institutions in general—can play a valuable role in bringing together scientists, researchers, educators, and policy makers to discuss the critical issues that society faces regarding life and sustainability.”

What is one issue you'd like to focus on?

“To achieve effective, accurate, and engaging education for the public about life science and the critical choices we face in promoting the sustainability of life on Earth. Also, to create an experience at the Academy that inspires young people to choose careers in science!”

Are these issues important?

“They are more than important. They are essential for the survival of the miracle we know as life in all of its marvelous diversity.”

Coral Reef growing

Coral Reefs

The new Academy houses one of the world's largest aquarium-based coral reefs. To build it, the Academy established its own growing program, raising coral from fragments bred in tanks at the old Howard Street facility. In addition, the Academy partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency to receive confiscated coral captured as contraband.

Water World

The water in the saltwater aquarium comes straight from the Pacific Ocean, nearly three miles away. Beneath Ocean Beach, a network of pipes extends like fingers beneath the sand, drawing in saltwater. The sand acts as a natural filter, removing the largest impurities before the water is pumped to the building to be stored.

Rain and Run-off

The Academy uses reclaimed wastewater from the city of San Francisco for some of its internal plumbing needs and for all of its public landscaping.

The 2.5 acres of Living Roof absorbs 3.6 million gallons of rainwater per year that would otherwise go down the drain and tax the city's water treatment plant. During heavy downpours, when the living roof has reached its absorbing capacity, water is siphoned off the roof to an underground water table recharge system. Filtered through sand and gravel, the rainwater naturally percolates back into the water table of Golden Gate Park, and not into a storm drain.

Recycling Bin

Inspired by the energy efficiencies of the new building, the Academy has formed a special "Green Team" that is wholly focused on finding and recommending new ways for the Academy to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Plastic water bottles are now eliminated at all staff meetings. Transport and loading teams re-use and recycle packing supplies. The purchasing department only replenishes supplies with bulk orders. Bathrooms don't carry anti-bacterial soap, which is harmful to marine life. Paper towels are banished from the public floor bathrooms, replaced by electric hand dryers that are more cost-effective and less harmful to the environment.

The overall result has been significant.  In the past year, the Academy recycled nearly 80% of its garbage. That's significantly higher than the the statewide average of roughly 50% and San Francisco's average of 67%.

Fast Facts



  • EPA's regional 2006 Environmental Award
  • North American winner of the silver Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction.

Power Savings

  • The new Academy will consume 30% less energy than required by San Francisco's codes
  • Sixty-thousand photovoltaic cells will provide 5% to 10% of electricity from solar energy

Water Savings

  • The Living Roof will absorb nearly 3.6 million gallons of rainwater per year