Congratulations to the Academy of Sciences who received their second LEED Platinum rating in August, thanks to which they become the world’s first museum to receive the award, and the largest double platinum building. What does that mean? It means the building uses recycled materials, is energy efficient, and because of its rooftop garden, that pumps sweet, sweet oxygen into the air.
LEED stands for Leading in Energy and Environmental Design and is a standard rating system for the evaluation of building design. The system looks at the overall carbon footprint in the creation of the building, along with the footprint in operating the building. AND, because this is a public building, it is a great model for people to see how a double platinum building is made and can be used as a tool for education. To see exactly why the building received this rating, review the highlights below.
Choice of Materials
• The Academy incorporates sustainability into its office-related purchasing decisions:
- 100% of the Academy’s computers are Energy Star rated.
- 100% of Academy’s printer paper is composed entirely of post-consumer recycled content.
- Nearly all of the Academy’s cleaning products are green-seal certified, and all custodial paper products have recycled content.
• Materials used for facility renovations and alterations (e.g., upgrades to aquarium and museum exhibits) contain low or no amounts of VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
• The Academy uses low-emission and ozone-friendly substances for refrigeration, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and fire suppression.
• The Academy employs a prevention-based pest control program that is EcoWise Certified and minimizes the use of pesticides.
Recycling and Waste Disposal
• 60-65% of the Academy’s waste is diverted from the landfill into recycling or compost. This includes waste from approximately 1.5 million visitors per year.
• Electronic waste (e.g., batteries and computers) is handled by GreenCitizen, a Bay Area company that helps individuals and businesses repair, reuse, and recycle electronics.
Water and Energy
• 70% of staff use alternative transportation (public transit, biking, walking) to commute to work.
• The Academy’s data center reduced the number of its physical servers by 41%, while simultaneously increasing the use of virtual machines. This restructuring results in energy savings of 166,000 kWh per year despite a 52% increase in computing capacity.
• Water use is 32% below the LEED baseline thanks to waterless urinals and low-flow faucets, toilets, and shower heads.
• Nearly 100% of the Academy’s electricity comes from clean energy sources (Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric plant plus an on-site solar array).
• Nearly 100% of the living roof’s plants and 80% of the surrounding landscaping consist of native vegetation.
• 100% of excess stormwater from the roof is drained into an underground chamber where it percolates back into the water table, preventing runoff from entering the city’s stormwater system.
• 87% of the roof’s surface area is vegetated, reducing the urban heat island effect.
• The Academy has implemented an ongoing commissioning plan for continually optimizing the indoor environmental quality.
• Outdoor views are available in 98% of regularly occupied spaces.
• Staff can control lighting in 93% of the workspaces.
• The Academy has installed CO2 sensors, airflow monitoring, and demand-based ventilation systems.
• The Academy provides green building education through a variety of channels:
- On the public floor, the Building Green exhibit highlights the sustainable aspects of the Academy building, including recycled building materials, radiant floor heating, and solar cells.
- Staff and docents provide regular behind-the-scenes tours.
- The Academy’s Teacher Institute on Science and Sustainability, a professional development program for Bay Area teachers, includes green building in its curriculum.
- The Education Division offers lesson plans and teacher workshops focusing on home energy, green buildings around the world, classroom energy audits, and the living roof.
- The living roof is used for weekly public programs, citizen science projects, and research studies by high school and university students.