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California Academy of Sciences Green Roof: Let the Planting Begin!
Sarah Rich, 13 May 07
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Last summer, we ran an interview with Paul Kephart of Rana Creek Habitat Restoration and Living Architecture, a known leader among "green roofers," with a huge portfolio of gorgeous and impressive living roof projects. At that time, we asked him about the developing plans for the new California Academy of Sciences' rooftop, which had been touted as one of the most ambitious of its kind to date.

From my perspective, the project addresses how to restore and encourage biodiversity in the urban sectors; what a great message, what a great venue. You know the Academy has a long tradition of exploring and explaining the natural world, and they have thousands of living organisms in collections and have been classified under the roof. Now the opportunity is to take that kind of experimentation in science and apply it in the built environment and as part of structure.

The roof crowns a building designed by Renzo Piano, which sits near the recently reopened De Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. An article in today's San Francisco Chronicle calls it "one of the world's most ambitious biodiversity experiments." Indeed, Kephart told us last year that his team was undergoing a painstakingly detailed research and field testing process to select over a million native plants that would thrive in the park's environment, not far from the Pacific shore, and attract abundant insects and birds. The Chronicle adds:

Engineers expect the roof to serve a working role for the building by attenuating sound and reducing storm water runoff. Its many skylights, and a retractable ceiling over a central piazza, will draw in sunlight and circulating air.
It even will keep rain off people's heads.
Equally important, the roof's plants were specially chosen to create habitat for the endangered bay checkerspot butterfly, draw bumblebees and hummingbirds, and maybe serve as a camping spot for migratory West Coast bird life.

Between now and November, the bare rooftop will receive its coat of seedlings and greenery, and the Academy's projected grand opening will be nearly one year later, in October 2008. Throughout the building process, the Academy is keeping an up-to-date website documenting their progress. You can read news, see photos of the roof's skeletal structure under constuction and view a number of short topical videos.

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