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The California Academy of Sciences is an excellent place for learning all about science – with unique sustainable design, and an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum – all under one roof!

amazing “living” green roof

Do hills have windows and skylights? Well, yes they do – at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Take one look at the Academy’s green roof and you might be forgiven for thinking you are on another planet! This green roof (also called a living roof) covers 2.5 acres and is a habitat for local wildlife, including 1.7 million plants. It’s made up of 7 rolling hills to mimic the natural hilly landscape.

According to the architect Renzo Plano who designed the facility, the idea was to “lift up a piece of the park and put a building underneath.” 

super multitasker

The green roof is multifunctional. All the greenery provides insulation for the building below, reducing heating and cooling costs. It captures 100% of stormwater to prevent runoff from polluting the ecosystem. 

The roof features weather stations that monitor wind, rain and changes in temperature. It also serves as a great outdoor classroom. Students of all ages head there to view eclipses, gaze at the stars, or learn about bees and native wildflowers.

adaptive heating and cooling

The rooftop weather stations also help inform the facility’s adaptive heating and cooling system to guide the automated skylights. In the aquarium and rainforest, the skylights open and close to regulate temperatures and let excess hot air escape as needed. In addition, there are louvers on each side of the building which open and close 24 hours a day to allow a constant flow of fresh air. 

Another fun fact: lots of floor-to-ceiling windows ensure plenty of natural daylight comes in and allow you to see the Golden Gate Park from almost any location inside. There are many other interesting examples of sustainable design at the Academy that we just didn’t have room to cover! 

So much science to learn about at the California Academy of Sciences. See it for yourself if you’re ever in the San Francisco area!

Sources: California Academy of Sciences & Living Roof. Image from California Academy of Sciences.


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