San Francisco Academy of Sciences Going Platinum-Green with Help of SWA Group Landscape Architecture

September 29, 2008

SAUSALITO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The new San Francisco Academy of Sciences, opening Sept. 27, is expected to be awarded a Platinum-LEED rating for its sustainability characteristics, due in large part to the multiple benefits of the building's complex "living laboratory" green roof. The 2.5-acre rooftop landscape, an implementation by SWA Group of architect Renzo Piano's design, is aimed to demonstrate sustainable building-design as a new standard for the future.

The Academy's living roof is a critical component in earning a coveted Platinum designation, the highest of all standards in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Development (LEED) program sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council. But in many ways, the Academy of Sciences is going beyond LEED in providing a highly visible example of how structures can reduce energy consumption, improve water quality, enhance local ecosystems and plant/animal habitat, and help reverse pollution and global warming.

"The Academy of Sciences leadership was truly visionary in making this building a bold statement of its mission to explore, explain and protect the natural world," said John Loomis, principal of SWA Group. SWA, one of the world's leading landscape architecture and urban design firms, provided landscape design in concert with Piano, project-architect Stantec Group, contractor Webcor Builders, ARUP engineers and plant-specialist Rana Creek.

Design innovation on the Academy's green roof provides insights and a demonstration-example for the building and construction industry, he said, including:

-- Green roofs on extreme slopes: SWA Group pioneered the infrastructure that enables the Academy roof to accommodate plant and soil material at a 55-degree slope, unheard of in the industry until now. Its solution, following extensive mock-ups and testing, called for a system of criss-crossing wire-enclosures containing light volcanic rock. Called gabion curbs, the interlocked, now-invisible network holds the soil in place, and also serves as a water-runway to channel rainwater in storms that exceed the capacity of the soil's absorption.

-- Water quality: Like green roofs in general, the roof will absorb some 98% of all storm water each year, thereby reducing pollutants from entering the neighboring ecosystem.

-- Reduced Heat-Island effect: A living roof helps diminish the "Urban Heat Island" effect, which raises the temperature in cities because of the heat bounced off of buildings and concrete versus the natural environment. Scientists have measured temperature differentials of one degree or more in the urban core versus surrounding suburbs.

-- Energy and cost savings: A green roof surface averages about 40 degrees cooler than standard roofs, which among other benefits ultimately cuts energy consumption by enhancing a building's natural cooling ability. The roof is expected to last many years longer than a standard roof, in part because it does not have the vast temperature-swings of other roofs.

-- Environmental enhancement: The highly-diverse rooftop ecosystem, developed in concert with Rana Creek and the Academy's own staff, provides habitat for native birds, butterflies and other creatures.

"The completion of this teaching structure is a tribute to the Academy and the entire team," said Loomis, whose firm has implemented many green roofs for more than 25 years, "and we anticipate that building designers and developers will gain new insights as we continue to study the roof's performance and benefits."

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