Cal Academy's Green Credentials
By Miyoko Ohtake / Published by Dwell
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Energy efficiency: The new CAS building will use 30-35 percent less energy than required by code thanks to:

•    A radiant floor heating system that will reduce energy needs by 5-10 percent
•    A heat-recovery system that will capture and reuse heat produced by HVAC equipment
•    High-performance glass that reduces energy loss through heat absorption
•    Reverse osmosis humidification systems that reduce energy consumption for humidification by 95 percent
•    Natural light reaches 90 percent of regularly used spaces and reduces consumption of electricity
•    Natural ventilation through openings in the undulated roof system and motorized windows
•    60,000 photovoltaic cells on the roof will supply nearly 213,000 kWh of energy per year (the equivalent of 5 percent of the Academy’s energy needs) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 405,000 pounds
•    Bathroom sensor faucets recharge themselves as water flows through an internal turbine, which generates power and charges the battery
•    A grey-water system and low-flow fixtures will reduce the use of potable water by 30 percent

Recycled and sustainable materials:

•    Over 90 percent of demolition waste from the old academy was recycled, including 9,000 tons of concrete that were used in construction of roadways in Richmond, California
•    Over 50 percent of the wood used in the new building is Forest Stewardship Council certified
•    All of the building’s structural steel is recycled
•    All of the insulation is made from recycled blue jeans
•    All of the concrete contains 30 percent fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants, and 20 percent slag, a waste product from metal smelting, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 5,375 tons
•    Over 20 percent of building materials were harvested and manufactured within 500 miles of the Academy

Living roof: The 1.7 million plants on the 2.5-acre roof:

•    Decrease the urban heat island effect by staying 40 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than standard roofs
•    Provide insulation to keep interior temperatures 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler and noise levels 40 decibels less than standard roofs
•    Absorb up to 3.6 million gallons (98 percent) of storm water a year, preventing runoff to carry pollutants into the ecosystem

Photo © Tim Griffith/CAS

California Academy of Sciences Location: San Francisco, California Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop

California Academy of Sciences Location: San Francisco, California Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Miyoko Ohtake


When not writing, Miyoko Ohtake can be found cooking, training for her next marathon, and enjoying all that the City by the Bay and the great outdoors have to offer.

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