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California Academy of Science

California Academy of Science

The race is on to build the greenest museum in the world, and my money is on The California Academy of Science. With a solar-paneled, water-recycling “living roof” and an aquarium that refills from the Pacific, this San Francisco space is a lock.

Scheduled for completion in 2008 and costing around $500 million, this restoration project in Golden Gate Park is one of the lengthiest and most expensive museum facelifts in a century. To be honest, it's a little more than a facelift; it's a complete cosmetic overhaul. The seven-year reconstruction project entails tearing down and re-uniting the Academy's original twelve buildings under one roof, and what a roof it is.

The 2.5 acre “living roof” will contain 55,000 solar panels, over a million native plants, and undulating panels that regulate the building’s climate, but that's just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

The Coral Reef Exhibit will be a 212,000 gallon tank filled with over 4,000 fish, making it deepest living coral reef display in the world. The three-story Rainforest exhibit will house live piranhas and anacondas and contain a glass elevator to bring visitors into the middle of the action. There will be over eight million natural history specimens in the museum, and other exhibits include the African Hall, the Penguins, the Swamp, and Foucault's Pendulum.

The team behind the new California Academy of Science is a veritable who’s who in the world of architecture and green living. Pritzker Prize winner Renzo Piano designed the structure, and Rana Creek Habitat Restoration and Living Architecture is on board to create the living roof. In the coming months, aquarium biologists will transport over 38,000 living species from around the globe to their new home and workers will plant rainforest trees inside a glass dome.

With so much time, money and effort being poured into this project, you might be wondering what great purpose the green museum will serve? Paul Kephart of Rana Creek has the answer. He says, “The project addresses how to restore and encourage biodiversity in the urban sectors. The Academy has a long tradition of exploring and explaining the natural world, and they have thousands of living organisms in collections and have been classified under the roof. Now the opportunity is to take that kind of experimentation in science and apply it to the built environment and as part of a structure.” So there you have it.

When the Academy opens its doors in 2008, the design team anticipates the museum will earn international recognition as the world’s largest LEEDPlatinum-certified public space.


Images Copyright © California Academy of Science

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  • Bill & Mary Bohler

    January 24, 2008

    Very, very well written. Can’t wait to go there when it opens. Writer has the ability to make you envision just how it will be. Thanks for sharing info.

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