Green architecture – California Academy of Sciences
In this article we’re going to write about a beautiful green architecture that is worth visiting, and it’s the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. A crowning achievement of sustainable architecture, the Academy will house 38,000 live animals and it received LEED platinum award. It is currently the only institution in the world to feature an aquarium, a natural history museum, a living rainforest, a planetarium, and world-class research and education programs – all housed under a 2.5 acre green roof.
Architect Renzo Piano achieved this in his design for the Living Roof. Not only does the green rooftop canopy visually connect the building to the park landscape, but it also provides significant gains in heating and cooling efficiency. The 15cm of soil substrate on the roof acts as natural insulation, and it also keeps approximately 13.5 million liters of rainwater per year from becoming storm water. The steep slopes of the roof also act as a natural ventilation system, channeling cool air into the open-air plaza on sunny days. The skylights perform as both ambient light sources and a cooling system, automatically opening on warm days to vent hot air from the building.
Besides the soil insulation, the building has a type of thick cotton batting made from recycled blue jeans. This material provides an organic alternative to formaldehyde-laden insulation materials. Recycled denim insulation holds more heat and absorbs sound better than spun fiberglass insulation. It is also safer to handle. Even when denim insulation is treated with fire retardants and fungicides to prevent mildew, it is still easier to work with and doesn’t require installers to wear protective clothing or respirators.
The Academy has a radiant heating system installed in the museum’s floors. Tubes embedded in the concrete floor carry hot water that warms the floor. The proximity of the heat to the people who need it reduces the building’s energy need by an estimated 10%.
Surrounding the Living Roof is a large glass canopy with a decorative band of 60,000 photovoltaic cells. These solar panels generate approximately 213,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year and provide up to 10% of the Academy’s electricity need. The use of solar power will prevent the release of 183 tons of greenhouse gas emission into the air.
The expansive, floor-to-ceiling walls of glass enable 90% of the building’s interior offices to use lighting from natural sources. The glass used in these perimeter walls surrounding the public floor were specially constructed with low-iron content. This feature removes a common green tint, providing exceptional clarity. From almost any point inside the museum, visitors will be able to see the park outside in all its seasonal colors.
Skylights, providing natural light to the rainforest and aquarium, are designed to open and close automatically. As hot air rises throughout the day, the skylights will open to allow hot air out from the top of the Academy while louvers below draw in cool air to the lower floors without the need for huge fans or chemical coolants.
And the interior of the Academy is just beautiful. The entrance doors lead to an immense inner courtyard that suffuses the entire structure with light. A transparent four-story dome in the Museum’s east wing houses the Academy’s stunning “Rainforests of the World” exhibit, complete with flying birds, insects, butterflies, and frogs hidden in the flourishing green vegetation.
From the peak of the rainforest you can go into the lower level down by using a glass elevator into the Academy’s aquatic exhibits. An incredible acrylic tunnel serves as the gateway, exposing the inner workings of the Amazonian flooded forest. The Academy’s Philippine aquarium is home to the largest indoor coral reef exhibit in the world. The 802,000 liters tank contains over two thousand species of fish, and the reef was grown entirely from pieces of coral that were either cultivated or purchased from other aquariums.
Conceived as a “celebration of life”, the exhibit will grow and change as its ecosystem develops – in three to five years the dome’s flora will enshroud it beneath an ethereal rainforest canopy. It also features a café and pleasant gardens where visitors can rest and refresh. Overall, it is a truly green place with green architecture solutions which you simply have to visit sometimes. Just make sure you check do they have the tickets for the particular day you would like to visit them, since some days are already taken.