Story by Renee Macalino Rutledge
SAN FRANCISCO — In December 2011, San Francisco received the leadership award for “Best Green Building Policy” by the World Green Building Council, a coalition of over 90 national green building councils from around the world. San Francisco’s Green Building Ordinance is considered one of the strictest and most ambitious policy approaches undertaken by any US city. Here are some shining examples of green building in the City by the Bay that embraces the value of sustainability in action:
California Academy of Sciences
Blending seamlessly into Golden Gate Park, with recycled steel walls and a 2.5-acre living roof adorned with solar panels, the California Academy of Sciences (pictured) is the largest public LEED Platinum-rated building in the world. Every aspect of the building reflects reverence to our natural resources, from floor-to-ceiling glass that light up to 90% of the interior naturally to the thick cotton batting insulation made from recycled blue jeans. The museum’s living roof prevents millions of gallons of runoff each year. The Academy goes beyond federal requirements, using 30% less energy than required by standard building code. All this may sound like reason enough to visit the Academy, but a four-story indoor rainforest, aquarium that includes a colony of 20 African penguins, and the largest all-digital planetarium in the world top the cake.
Sustainability Base, NASA’s Moffet Field Building
In late April, Sustainability Base, the new NASA building in Moffet Field, was certified as one of the greenest federal buildings in the country, receiving LEED Platinum status by the US Green Building Council. Lunar-shaped and adaptable to weather, season, and occupancy, the 50,000-square-foot building was designed to be “native to place,” harmonizing with everything from the rays of the sun to the angle of the earth. The building generates all the power it requires and uses 90% less potable water than traditional buildings its size. It just goes to show that NASA’s advanced technology can be directed from outer space to more “down-to-Earth” issues.
In the heart of the Financial District, the Transamerica Building’s iconic pyramid has long been a recognizable piece of the San Francisco skyline. Home to the Transamerica Insurance and Investment Group, the building was the first to comply with new city standards requiring a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. LEED Platinum certified, it is not only green but progressive, demonstrating how even one of the world’s tallest buildings in the world may work toward a smaller footprint. The pyramid’s onsite Co-Generation plant provides 70% of its electricity and 100% of its heating.
EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park
Recognized as the first 100% off-grid building in San Francisco, the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park includes alternative wastewater technologies, a green living roof, solar panels, wind turbine, structurally insulated panels, and native landscaping. The programs that take place at the EcoCenter help create an eco-literate public, and every feature of the 1,500-square-foot building may be used as a learning tool toward that end.
One of San Francisco’s first green affordable housing developments, the Plaza Apartments are LEED Silver rated. During the Plaza’s demolition and construction phase, almost all of the debris was recycled; 106 mini apartments receive natural light and ventilation, with energy efficient light fixtures and Energy Star-rated appliances. Solar panels provide about 10-15% of the building’s energy. All of the paint, sealant, and adhesive used in the building is low or no-VOC (volatile organic compound), and even the building’s housekeeping is directed by green guidelines.
Laguna Honda Hospital
City-owned Laguna Honda Hospital was the first in California to receive LEED Silver certification. The only publicly funded long-term-care facility of its kind in the US, it has provided everything from emergency housing for victims of the great earthquake to 24-hour support to patients living with HIV and AIDS. The hospital’s environmental design, construction, and operation includes a cool roofing system, closed-loop air conditioning, 100% fresh, outdoor air ventilation, high recycled content in the building material, and restorative landscaping.