Building type:




Project Status:


Gross Area:

37000 Sqm


LEED v2.0 NC Platinum


LEED v3 EBOM (Existing Buildings) Platinum

Climatic zone:



Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 0 © Tom Fox, SWA Group
Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 1 © Tom Fox, SWA Group
Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 2 © Tom Fox, SWA Group
Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 3 © Nic Lehoux
Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 4 © Griffith Tim
Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 5 © Nic Lehoux
Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 6 © Griffith Tim
Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 7 © Nic Lehoux
Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 8 © Griffith Tim
Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 9 © Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 10 © Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Thumbnail California Academy of Sciences / 11 © Renzo Piano Building Workshop


The California Academy of Sciences was founded in San Francisco in 1853. It is one of the most prestigious institutions in the US, and one of the few institutes of natural sciences in which public experience and scientific research occur at the same location.

Following the widespread destruction of the Academy buildings by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, a consultation for this new building was held. Today’s Academy sits on the Golden Gate Park site of its predecessor, which was comprised of 11 buildings built between 1916 and 1976 and grouped around a central courtyard. Of these buildings, three have been conserved within the new project: the African Hall, the North American Hall and the Steinhart Aquarium.

The new building has maintained the same position and orientation as the original, all the functions laid out around a central courtyard, which acts as entrance lobby and pivotal centre to the collections. This connection point is covered by a concave glass canopy with a reticular structure reminiscent of a spider’s web, open at the centre.

Combining exhibition space, education, conservation and research beneath one roof, the Academy also comprises natural history museum, aquarium and planetarium. The varied shapes of these different elements are expressed in the building’s roofline, which follows the form of its components.

The entire 37.000 sq. m complex is like a piece of the park that has been cut away and lifted 10 m up above the ground. This “living roof” is covered with 1,700,000 selected autochthonous plants planted in specially conceived biodegradable coconut-fibre containers.

The roof is flat at its perimeter and, like a natural landscape, becomes increasingly undulating as it moves away from the edge to form a series of domes of various sizes rising up from the roof plane. The two main domes cover the planetarium and rain forest exhibitions. The domes are speckled with a pattern of skylights automated to open and close for ventilation.

The soil’s moisture, combined with the phenomenon of thermal inertia, cools the inside of the museum significantly, thus avoiding the need for air-conditioning in the ground-floor public areas and the research offices along the facade.
Photovoltaic cells are contained between the two glass panels that form the transparent canopy around the perimeter of the green roof; they provide more than 5% of the electricity required by the museum.

The choice of materials, recycling, the positioning of the spaces with respect to the natural lighting, natural ventilation, water usage, rainwater recovery and energy production: all of these design issues became an integral part of the project itself, and
helped the museum obtain LEED platinum certification.


2006 Environmental Protection Agency regional Environmental Award

2005 Silver Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction

2006 Environmental Protection Agency regional Environmental Award

2007 American Concrete Institute Award- Green/Environmental category

2007 California Construction Best of California Awards (Overall Top Project, Outstanding Architectural Design, and Green Building categories)

2009 AIA San Francisco Design Awards-Excellence in Architecture

2010 Green Good Design Awards – Architecture category

2009 Urban Land Institute for Excellence - Americas Region

2010 Green Good Design Awards – Architecture category

Double LEED Platinum certification (LEED NC + LEED EBOM)


Natural ventilation


Rainwater harvesting

Water-saving sanitary appliances

Recycled materials

Low-emitting materials and finishes

Daylight sensors

Smart design (passive design strategies)

Green or brown roofs

Daylighting maximised


The California Academy of Sciences has developed plans for a dynamic new facility that has transformed the museum into one of the world’s leading scientific and cultural institutions. The new design, which features a living planted roof, integrates the Academy more sensitively into Golden Gate Park and make nature a part of the building’s structure. With its environmentally-sensitive design, the new building is an expression of the Academy’s mission to understand and protect the natural world.


There are varying shades of green as measured by the U.S. Green Building Council through its LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system. Through all aspects of design, construction, and building operations, the Academy will strive to achieve the highest rating: LEED platinum. The Academy’s goal is to join the ranks of only eight buildings in the United States that have achieved a platinum rating. When it opens in 2008, the Academy expects to be the largest public LEED platinum building in the world.


The new Academy is one of ten pilot “green building” projects of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, part of a vanguard initiative to develop models for workable, sustainable public architecture.


- The new Academy consumes 30% less energy than required by federal code.
- 55,000 square feet of photo voltaic cells in the roof supply almost 213,000 kWh of energy (about 5% of the new Academy’s energy needs), and prevent the release of more than 405,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
- The planted roof provides a thermal insulating layer for the building that help prevent overheating during the summer months and reduce energy needs for air-conditioning.


- The new Academy’s living roof reduces storm water runoff by at least 50% (up to 2 million gallons of water per year).
- Rainwater collected on the roof is used as wastewater, reducing the use of potable water for wastewater conveyance by 90% percent.
- Overall potable water use is 22% less than baseline.
- Saltwater for the aquariums has piped in from the Pacific Ocean. Nitrate wastes are purified with natural systems, ensuring that aquarium water can be recycled.


- While the Academy uses new “green” technologies, it also takes advantage of simple, traditional engineering techniques involving use of natural light and ventilation.
- At least 90% of regularly occupied spaces have access to daylight and outside views, reducing energy use and heat gain from electric lighting. Lighting controls is included automatic dimming, linked to external light levels, to ensure that a minimum of electric lighting is used at all times.
- Openings in the roof domes creates a stack effect on the exhibit floors, drawing in cool air from below and exhaling warm air out the roof. Operable windows is employed in staff offices.


- 100% of the demolition waste from the old Academy was recycled. 9,000 tons of concrete were reused in Richmond roadway construction, 12,000 tons of steel were recycled and went to Schnitzer Steel, and 120 tons of green waste were recycled on site.
- At least 50% of the wood in the new Academy will be sustainability harvested and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
- Recycled steel have been used for 100% of the building’s structural steel.


- A new link in an ecological corridor for wildlife, the new Academy’s living roof has been planted with nine native California species that is not require artificial irrigation.
- Approximately 1.7 million plants have been blanket the living roof.
- The native plants provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Beach strawberries (Fragaria chiloensis) produce berries that attract a number of native birds, self heal (Prunella vulgaris) bears large tubular flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds and bumble bees, sea pink (Armeria maritime) produces pom-pom-like flowers that attract moths and butterflies, stonecrop (Sedum spathulitholium) produces nectar for the Hairstreak butterfly and the threatened San Bruno elfin butterfly, tidy tips (Layia platyglossa) attract parasitic wasps and pirate bugs that feed on pest insects, miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor) and California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) provide nectar for bees and butterflies, California plantain (Plantago erecta) hosts a variety of butterfly larvae, and the bright yellow flowers produced by Goldfield plants (Lasthenia californica) attract a wide variety of beneficial native insects.


Energy consumption:

N/A (N/A )

Consumption type:

Annual carbon footprint:

N/A (N/A )

Climate zone:


Min. temperature =


Max temperature =


RH =

49% - 94%


No product info available



California Academy of Sciences



Renzo Piano Building Workshop


Renzo Piano Building Workshop , in collaboration with , Stantec Architecture , R. Piano , M.Carroll , Nooyer , S.Ishida , B.Terpeluk , J.McNeal , A.De Flora , F.Elmalipinar , A.Guernier , D.Hart , T.Kjaer , J.Lee , A.Meine-Jansen , D.Piano , A.Ng , W.Piotraschke , J.Sylvester , CAD Operators: , C.Bruce , L.Burow , C.Cooper , A.Knapp , Y.Pages , Z.Rockett , V.Tolu , A.Walsh , I.Corte , S.D’Atri , G.Langasco , M.Ottonello , Models: , F.Cappellini , S.Rossi , A.Malgeri , A.Marazzi


Building services engineer:


Energy consultant:


Specialist consultant:

Rutherford & Chekene , SWA Group , Rana Creek , PBS&J , Thinc Design , Cinnabar , Visual-Acuity

Structural Engineer:


Sustainability consultant:




Webcor Builders



Thumbnail MUSE

Trento, Italia | 2013


Renzo Piano Building Workshop | Manens-Tifs

Exhibitions/Museums | LEED v2.2 NC

Thumbnail China Pavilion Expo 2015

Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy | 2015

China Pavilion Expo 2015

Studio Link-Arc + Tsinghua University | Studio Link-Arc


Thumbnail Bourse de Commerce Pinault Collection

2 Rue de Viarmes, 75001 Paris, France | 2021

Bourse de Commerce Pinault Collection

Tadao Ando Architect & Associates (TAAA)

Exhibitions/Museums | BREEAM International New Construction 2016