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The Green Future Is Here!

If You’re Going To San Francisco, Be Sure To See Some Flowers On The Roof

green-museum-1_7071The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California, was nearly 10 years and $500 million dollars in the making. The new Academy is a masterpiece in sustainable architecture, blending 2.5 acres of an undulating green roof seamlessly into the Golden Gate Park’s natural setting. Filled with hundreds of innovative exhibits and thousands of extraordinary plants and animals it is the brain-child of renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano.

Beneath the roof, this new Academy contains multiple venues, including a natural-history museum, a planetarium, a 4-story rain forest with free-flying birds, a coral reef inhabited by 4,000 fish, and an aquarium filled with saltwater pumped in from the Pacific Ocean, a new 3D theater, a lecture hall, a Naturalist Center, two restaurants, an adjacent garden and aviary, a roof terrace, and an Academy store. The museum is not just a green structure, but also an amazing green hub that gives visitors a wonderful idea of what a green tomorrow will be like.

The new building also houses the Academy science labs and administrative offices, including an extensive library and scientific archive consisting of more than 20 million specimens.

From the basement to the roof of the Academy’s new building, the choices behind each element of construction reflect a commitment to energy efficiency, reducing the carbon footprint, and preserving the natural world. This commitment to sustainability extends to all facets of the facility starting with the bike racks and rechargeable vehicle stations outside the building.

green-museum-3_7071Not only does the green rooftop canopy visually connect the building to the park landscape, but it also provides significant gains in heating and cooling efficiency. The six inches of soil substrate on the roof act as natural insulation, and every year will keep approximately 3.6 million gallons of rainwater from becoming stormwater. The steep slopes of the roof also act as a natural ventilation system, funneling cool air into the open-air plaza on sunny days. The skylights perform as both ambient light sources and a cooling system, automatically opening on warm days to vent hot air from the building.

The expansive, floor-to-ceiling walls of glass will enable 90% of the building’s interior offices to use lighting from natural sources.

The glass used in the perimeter walls surrounding the public floor were specially constructed with low-iron content. This feature removes a common green tint, providing exceptional clarity. From almost any point inside the museum, visitors will be able to see the park outside in all its seasonal colors.

The building will also feature operable office windows that employees can open and close as needed. On the main guest floor, an automated ventilation system takes advantage of the natural air currents of Golden Gate Park to regulate the temperature of the building. Throughout the day and night, louvers will open and close, providing fresh air and cooling the building thereby reducing the dependence on traditional HVAC systems and chemical coolants.

Skylights, providing natural light to the rainforest and aquarium, are designed to open and close automatically. As hot air rises throughout the day, the skylights will open to allow hot air out from the top of the Academy while louvers below draw in cool air to the lower floors without the need for huge fans or chemical coolants.

Warm air rises. A traditional forced-air heating system for the 35-foot-high public spaces in the museum would be wasteful in the extreme. Instead, the Academy is installing a radiant heating system in the museum’s floors. Tubes embedded in the concrete floor will carry hot water that warms the floor. The proximity of the heat to the people who need it will reduce the building’s energy need by an estimated 10% annually.

The Academy, rather than using typical fiberglass or foam-based insulation, chose to use a type of thick cotton batting made from recycled blue jeans. This material provides an organic alternative to formaldehyde-laden insulation materials. Recycled denim insulation holds more heat and absorbs sound better than spun fiberglass insulation. It is also safer to handle. Even when denim insulation is treated with fire retardants and fungicides to prevent mildew, it is still easier to work with and doesn’t require installers to wear protective clothing or respirators.

green-museum-5_7071Surrounding the Living Roof is a large glass canopy with a decorative band of 60,000 photovoltaic cells. These solar panels will generate approximately 213,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year and provide up to 10% of the Academy’s electricity need. The use of solar power will prevent the release of 405,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emission into the air.

Further more 90% of all demolition materials were recycled, 95% of all steel from recycled sources, 30% less energy consumption than federal code requirement, and 32,000 tons of sand from foundation excavation applied to dune restoration projects in San Francisco.

U.S. Green Building Council awarded the Academy a Platinum-level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Points for the coveted LEED certificate are awarded in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. The Academy is now the largest public Platinum-rated building in the world, and also the world’s greenest museum with a total score of 54 points.

If I ever get the chance to visit San Francisco, the Academy is the first on my list to see!

…. As the green future unfolds!

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18 Responses to “The Green Future Is Here!”

  1. whamx.com Says:

    The Green Future Is Here! | Forced Green…

    The new Academy is a masterpiece in sustainable architecture, blending 2.5 acres of an undulating green roof seamlessly into the Golden Gate Park’s natural setting….

  2. Internet Marketing Email » Blog Archive » The Green Future Is Here! | Forced Green Says:

    […] Linda placed an interesting blog post on The Green Future Is Here! | Forced GreenHere’s a brief overviewThe Academy is now the largest public Platinum-rated building in the world, and also the world’s greenest museum with a total score of 54 points. If I ever get the chance to visit San Francisco, the Academy is the first on my list to … […]

  3. Bruce Ray Says:

    I continue to be confused about green and sustainability claims for denim insulation. People who certainly appear to be intelligent and well-intentioned never bother to consider that there would appear to be no support for many of those claims. That said, let’s look at the claims in this article.
    – “. . . made from recycled blue jeans.” Denim insulation is made from post-industrial denim scraps, some of which is sourced from Mexico. http://www.bondedlogic.com/ultratouch-cotton.htm
    – “organic alternative” Just because a product is plant derived does not automatically mean that it is better. Are pesticides and herbicides used to grow the cotton? How much water is needed for the cotton and what water pollution is generated? Mexico is not known for its strong environmental laws. Nor is denim insulation “organic” unless there is substantiation that the cotton was cultivated according to well-established organic agriculture.
    – “formaldehyde-laden insulation materials” Johns Manville’s entire line of fiber glass building insulation is made without any added formaldehyde. Also, some denim is treated with a formaldehyde-based resin to impart wrinkle-free properties. Are there test data to confirm there is no formaldehyde added to the denim?
    – “holds more heat and absorbs sound better than spun fiberglass insulation.” I know of no data to substantiate this claim.
    – “safer to handle” How is handling safety measured and where are the data to support this claim? Remember that if a denim insulation batt weighs ten pounds, fully 1.5 pound of that is added fire retardant chemicals.
    – “doesn’t require installers to wear protective clothing or respirators.” Are people aware what the MSDS for this product states? In section VIII Control Measures the MSDS states the following: “Respiratory Protection (Specify Type) OSHA APPROVED AIR MASK.” See http://www.bondedlogic.com/documents/UltraTouchMSDS.pdf
    – “treated with fire retardants and fungicides to prevent mildew” Two claims are usually made for denim insulation – it is safe and the added fire retardant chemicals (15% by weight) are strong enough to prevent mildew and kills pests. Are these claims inconsistent? What do the data show?
    – denim insulation is also touted as more sustainable, but again I know of no data to support such a claim. What are the conditions of the agricultural workers (who plant, cultivate and harvest the cotton) and the textile workers. Again, Mexico is not known for its strong labor laws. What pesticides and herbicides are used in the cotton cultivation? How much water is needed and how much water pollution is generated? Much agriculture is carbon intensive, especially if chemical fertilizer is used. And do the cotton farms have strict environmental permits? What chemicals are used to dye the denim? What water pollution is generated by the denim manufacturing process? What do the data show?

    Full disclosure: I work for Johns Manville, which makes an entire line of Formaldehyde-FreeTM fiber glass building insulation. Our factories in the US and Canada operate pursuant to strict environmental permits and our workers are full-time employees with full benefits. Our factories operate in a culture of maximum health and safety. Fiber glass is naturally non-combustible and does not need fire retardant chemicals. JM’s insulation contains 20% post-consumer recycled content. And JM has been recognized as a Climate Action Leader.

  4. Bruce Ray Says:

    Linda: I’m not trying to convince but instead to educate. If consumers have good and complete info, they can make better decisions. The point is that many consumers may take these denim insulation claims at face value, not knowing that there would appear to be no real substantiation for them. The problem is compounded by the fact that some of the issues are complex enough that even green building “experts” do not fully understand them.

    For example, post-industrial denim insulation has certain environmental impacts potentially related to water pollution and the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides/herbicides, and chemical dyes. In contrast, fiber glass insulation generates no water pollution and does not require chemical fertilizers, pesticides/herbicides, or dyes (JM’s insulation is naturally white); however, making fiber glass does generate air emissions. Is denim insulation’s water pollution worse than fiber glass’ air pollution? How do you compare these very different types of impacts? If experts may not agree, what chance do consumers have to make these tradeoffs?

    Until there are developed objective and technically appropriate standards for comparing products’ overall life cycle impacts or sustainability, we will be left with single attribute claims. And each such claim must be adequately substaniated.

    It may well be that some consumers will prefer denim and that’s fine. But they deserve better info; they should not be making their product selection decision based on claims that are not true or for which there is no support. Thanks.

    BTW: do you have any data relevant to these denim claims? [I’ll rest my fingers now]

  5. Wilson Pon Says:

    With the investment of up to $500 million dollars, I bet that The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is going to be the world’s top live science exhibition center, once it finished, Linda!

  6. corrin Says:

    Wow – and I was impressed with my company’s rooftop garden when I worked in the city. 🙂
    .-= corrin´s last blog ..We went to Disney…on Ice! =-.

  7. Bruce Ray Says:

    Linda: a good discussion. Let’s consider a few things.

    If a mfg’er is using post-consumer recycled content, then the relevant life cycle environmental and social impacts are only those related to the new product that uses the RC as an input. The original product (e.g., a beer bottle) has already fulfilled its intended purpose and the original impacts of that original product are properly attributed to the original consumer. In contrast if a mfg’er is using post-industrial recycled material (like denim insulation), the relevant life cycle environmental and social impacts are attributable to the new final product. The raw materials, e.g., denim scraps, have not yet fulfilled their final intended purpose and so all of the original impacts (i.e., planting, cultivation, and harvesting of the underlying cotton as well as the denim production itself) are properly attributable to the new product.

    Thus, if we make fiber glass insulation, we must consider the life cycle impacts of all virgin raw materials, principally sand, but we need not consider the life cycle impacts of the post-consumer recycled bottle glass, which can make up as much as 50% of the total inputs. For denim insulation, we must consider the life cycle impacts of all raw materials, including the cotton that is used to make the denim as well as the denim production itself. Also included would be any additional impact from making insulation from the denim.

    In order for a consumer to make a good decision, the consumer needs to know as much as possible about these impacts and issues. Again, with more and better information, the consumer should be able to make a better decision. It may not be a different decision, but it will be a better one. For example, some consumers are very interested in the social impacts of products and would strongly prefer to buy a product made by US union employees who work in safe conditions instead of products made by foreign workers who are paid little and may not have the safest working conditions.

    If all of the “green” factors are made known to the consumer, then the consumer can take the green factors into account with important other factors like price, availability, weight, fire safety, etc. (These days price is not a trivial factor and denim insulation can cost multiples of what fiber glass costs.)

    If a person prefers denim insulation because they think it is “cool” (no pun intended) and they don’t mind the extra cost, extra weight and added fire retardant chemicals, that’s fine. But if a person wants denim insulation because there are claims being made that denim is inherently greener or more sustainable than fiber glass insulation, then that may not be a good decision.

    JM does make a loose fill insulation product that is made from recycled fiber glass insulation – similar in concept to what denim insulation is.

    A final point. I still have not found any data to support the claim in the article that denim insulation performs better than fiber glass. JM has lots of data showing that, e.g., our R-19 product actually achieves R-19 and that we achieve a certain sound transmission coefficient (STC) rating with given wall construction configuration. (Bonded Logic does not give wall configuration info.) All insulation products are tested according to the same methods and data should be available. Perhaps such data exist but I have found none. Thanks.

  8. Brenda Says:

    Sure are some interesting things happening world wide and looking forward to more to come. Great site and love the dialogue!
    .-= Brenda´s last blog ..Entrecard Contest At “The Painted Veil” =-.

  9. Bruce Ray Says:

    Linda: I think we all need to work to better educate consumers. We should develop data and information that are clear and complete in order to help them make better decisions. Part of what is needed is better objective rating systems that can compare apples and oranges in a meaningful way. This is no easy task as different types of insulation have different pros and cons, e.g., water pollution vs air pollution. Until that complete info and data are available, all claims should be limited to the actual data that are currently available.

    On recyclability, fiber glass insulation has a ways to go, but we’re working on it. JM takes its edge trim and makes a type of loose fill insulation. This is similar to the post-industrial recycled content in denim insulation. As for insulation batts, they can be removed and reused as appropriate as long as they are not wet or damaged in some way. This is done frequently in remodeling.

    Generally manufacturers do not make any claims around recyclability because the FTC Green Guides limit such claims to only those products for which recycling programs and facilities are available in most all areas where the products are sold and actual recycling is going on. I know of no insulation that has attained that status.

  10. Bruce Ray Says:

    Thank you, Linda.

  11. Natasha Says:

    Hello! Cool article, thank you! I wish I could move in to such house.
    I’m actually living in Vancouver, Canada and I recently moved out of my old house and I had a huge concern about how to put all that trash away. To my luck, I found this trash removal company in Vancouver, these guys really helped me to get rid of the big chunk of that trash. Thanks for your post again, I’m looking forward in living one of these houses in the future.

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