On the museum’s main public floor, an automated ventilation system takes advantage of the natural air currents of Golden Gate Park to regulate temperatures inside the building. Throughout the day and night, louvers on all four sides of the Academy open and close, providing fresh air and cooling the building in ways that reduce our dependence on traditional HVAC systems and chemical coolants. The many circular skylights overhead not only provide natural light to the rainforest and aquarium; they also open and close automatically to allow hot air to escape as needed.
Radiant floor heating is another key component of the Academy’s energy efficiency. Because warm air rises, a traditional forced-air heating system for our 35-foot-high public spaces would be wasteful in the extreme. Instead, tubes embedded in the concrete floor carry hot water, warming the spaces people actually move through and reducing the building’s energy needs by an estimated 10 percent annually.