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California Academy of Sciences


The California Academy of Sciences consists of 409,178 square feet of research, exhibition, educational and office space designed by Pritzker Prize winner Renzo Piano. This award-winning facility houses the Steinhart Aquarium, the Morrison Planetarium, and the Kimball Natural History Museum with thousands of live animals and millions of scientific specimens.

Webcor used its concrete expertise to create many one-of-a-kind structures including six aquariums that required complex compound curves, waterproof concrete and massive custom acrylic windows. In addition, Webcor’s exceptionally high-quality architectural concrete was deemed as aesthetically superior to the option of using stone cladding for the exterior façade.

Due to the project’s challenging design, including the 2.5-acre green roof and unique MEP and animal life support systems, Webcor used the latest in Building Information Modeling to integrate the many complex elements.

Sustainability Features:

  • In keeping with their environmental mission, the new Academy received a rare LEED Platinum certification and is now recognized as the largest public Platinum-rated building in the world, and the world’s most sustainable museum building.
  • The roof top solar panels 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 prevents the release of more than 405,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emission into the air.
  • Reverse osmosis humidification systems are installed to keep the research collections at a constant humidity level, reducing energy consumption for humidification by 95%
  • The unique shape of the green roof helps draw cool air into the open piazza at the center of the building, naturally ventilating the surrounding exhibit spaces. Skylights in the roof automatically open and close to vent hot air out through the tops of the domes, and keep the room temperature comfortable and consistent
  • The 2.5 acre living green roof helps absorb the water and ultimately prevent up to 3.6 million gallons of runoff annually from carrying pollutants into the ecosystem
  • Over 90% of the demolition waste from the old Academy was recycled. 9,000 tons of concrete were reused in Richmond roadway construction, 12,000 tons of steel were recycled and went to Schnitzer Steel, and 120 tons of greenwaste were re-used on site.
  • 90% of all spaces occupied for critical visual tasks (Research, Collection and Administration) will be provided with a minimum daylight and view factor of 2%.
  • Exhibits to promote sustainability is showcased within the museum, including displays of the building itself as an example of sustainable practices. Modern programs for alternative transportation has also been incorporated for employees and visitors.
  • The use of high-efficiency irrigation technology such as micro-irrigation systems, moisture sensors, and weather database controllers were incorporated to reduce water usage.


The project has been further distinguished by winning a 2007 Design Special Commendation from the AIA SF Chapter for the use of Integrated Practice techniques to improve the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and life-support systems coordination during construction.

  • Other Awards & Recognition:
    2005 Silver Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction
    2006 Environmental Protection Agency regional Environmental Award
    2007 American Concrete Institute Award- Green/Environmental category.
    2007 California Construction Best of California Awards (Overall Top Project, Outstanding Architectural Design, and Green Building categories)
    2009 AIA San Francisco Design Awards-Excellence in Architecture – Merit Award
    2010 Green Good Design Awards – Architecture category