City Launches Environmentally Friendly Buildings

(October 27, 2004)

San Francisco – San Francisco is pushing forward with a number of green building projects under a recently adopted Green Building Ordinance that will apply to all new city construction projects, renovations, and building additions. Under this ordinance, municipal buildings will need to follow green building design principles, which will help to create healthy workplaces, increase energy productivity, protect the environment, and save the City millions in funds.

"This Green Building Ordinance will translate into millions in savings on future operational costs for new city buildings. The ordinance is good for the City and will help improve the health of our environment and the wellbeing of the thousands of employees that continue to provide services for this community," explains Jared Blumenfeld, director of SF Environment. "This City leads by example and together we hope this will encourage the private sector to adopt similar building measures."

A prime example of a green building is the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Among the ten largest natural history museums and research centers in the world, the museum is registered with the US Green Building Council and is projected for the highest rating provided by the Council. Inspired by the natural world, nature will become part of the building itself. The new museum will highlight a living roof of native and adapted species that will blend the building into its park setting, reduce heating and cooling requirements, create oxygen for the planet and habitat for wildlife, and reduce storm water run-off, which will lessen the burden on the city's wastewater treatment plants. Floor to ceiling glass walls will suffuse public spaces with natural light and integrate the interior space with the environment of the park. Solar panels will provide clean, renewable energy for the Academy.

The Green Building Ordinance requires that all new projects, including city-owned facilities and leaseholds, will achieve at least a LEED Silver certification. LEED is the green building rating system of the US Green Building Council; the acronym stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design." The buildings are rated on a four-step scale from lowest to highest: LEED Certified, LEED Silver, LEED Gold, and LEED Platinum. LEED criteria evaluate a building's environmental performance from a "whole building" perspective, over the course of a building's lifecycle, which provides a definitive standard for what constitutes a green building.

"The California Academy of Sciences is an internationally recognized learning and research center visited by thousands of people every year. We want the Academy to be a symbol of excellence architecturally, educationally, and scientifically. The new facility will allow people to see how nature and science can work together to create a learning infrastructure in-line with the Academy's mission to explore, explain and protect the natural world," explains Dr. J. Patrick Kociolek, Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences.

The California Academy of Sciences will provide a virtual tour and feature a model of the new museum. The tour will allow a first hand view of the new building highlighting its iconic exhibits and design. The new museum is designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, in association with the local firm Chong Partners Architecture and is scheduled to open in 2008. Mr. Piano is best known for his cultural designs around the country and world including the New York Times building in New York City and the Potsdamer Platz on the site of the former Berlin Wall.

Aside from educating people about energy and resource efficiency, green buildings have huge advantages in providing healthy indoor environments for employees and employers. Corporate productivity studies show natural lighting and natural ventilation in offices can improve employee productivity by as much as sixteen percent. These employee productivity gains include a decrease in absenteeism, improvements in the quality of work, enhanced comfort and health, a reduction in liability, and the minimization of turnovers and workers compensation claims.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the construction and operation of conventional buildings uses 35% of all energy the nation consumes, and is responsible for 35% of the material that goes to landfills. In addition, conventional buildings use 30% of wood and other raw materials, and contribute to 35% of the carbon dioxide produced nationwide.

"We now have the capability to design and construct buildings that actually produce more energy than they use; buildings that purify their own wastewater and create oxygen. Green Buildings allow us to leave a positive environmental footprint," states Blumenfeld.

Gloria Chan (415) 355-3733, SF Environment
Pat Kilduff (415) 321-8125, California Academy of Sciences