Green Week: The California Academy of Sciences by Renzo Piano
I’m proud of my home town of San Francisco. It’s a great place to live. It’s a place where people seem to care about their environment. Unfortunately, with a very few exceptions, our buildings are far from being green here in San Francisco. That’s why I’m really excited by the new California Academy of Sciences by Renzo Piano due to open next year. It will do what very few buildings in the world are capable of: achieve a LEED Platinum rating. What is LEED? It’s a voluntary system that requires strong performance criteria by the building systems as well as creates extreme restrictions on building and construction practices. LEED Platinum is the highest rating achievable by a building. But rather than speaking about it myself, I include this quote:
“The sustainability features planned for the new Academy can easily be understood when compared to a standard building. For instance, whereas standard buildings do not capture or treat stormwater, the green roof of the Academy will reduce runoff by at least 50 percent (possibly as much as two million gallons of water per year)—water that would otherwise carry salt, sand, soil, pesticides, fertilizers, oil, litter, and other pollutants into nearby waterways. The green roof of native California plant species will provide excellent insulation and increase biodiversity by offering habitat for honeybees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
Though cutting-edge technology will be apparent in the new Academy, we will also employ the age-old engineering techniques of daylight and natural ventilation. Large-but-controllable areas of glass in the façades and the roof will let daylight into offices, research, and exhibition areas, reducing energy use and heat gain from electric lighting. These areas will also have windows that can be opened—which is unusual today—decreasing the use of mechanical systems. The Academy will use approximately 50 percent less energy than California codes allow a standard building to consume. Some of this energy will come from clean, renewable sources, meaning a significant reduction in pollution.
Besides saving energy, daylighting and natural ventilation systems will make the interior of the building more comfortable. The design team is also carefully selecting healthy, non-toxic building materials that do not cause indoor air pollution. An improved indoor environment will not only benefit staff and visitors; the Academy can also expect higher levels of productivity and lower levels of staff absenteeism. “