The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is home to Claude, an albino crocodile who greets you within moments of stepping inside. Now, Claude (and the various other fish, mammals and insects that live there) is reason enough to visit, but the sustainable design of this building blew me away during my visit in September 2013.
Floor to ceiling windows not only give you a view of Golden Gate Park from pretty much any point inside the Academy, they reduce energy use by using natural daylight instead of electric lighting.
The living roof is a key design component. The soil for the plants provides insulation for the building and prevents stormwater runoff, which could contain pollutants, into the surrounding area. Only native species are planted, providing habitat and food for birds and butterflies. The roof also has a solar array of 60,000 PV cells that supply about 5% of the Academy’s electricity needs.
The round skylights open and close, providing fresh, cool air into the building overnight, reducing air conditioning costs; they also flood the building with natural light, saving even more energy. Radiant concrete flooring (hot water piping embedded into the floor) warms the building and cuts heating needs by about 10% a year.