06 May 2010

first encounter with a living roof

Photo: Akhila Vijayaraghavan ©

A few weeks ago, I spent a day at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. With little planning, it turned out to be a pretty green day. I took the public transport and ate organic food at their cafe as well as spent a lot of time appreciating science and the natural world in general.

The academy is big on sustainability and the first impression of this is when you walk in to be greeted with a revamped building with lots of natural light and clean lines. The second is found on the back of their maps: "printed on 100% recycled post-consumer paper "and "please return after use to help the museum save resources". The many other signs include the climate change exhibit, the organic food served in their cafe, eco-friendly items in the gift shop, including organic cotton T-shirts, solar panels on the roof, water-saving toilets and their carefully chosen exhibits. Best of all was the 2.5 acre living green roof - I have previously blogged about green roofs but that was well before I saw one of this proportion. It was covered in little hills of native Californian wildflowers which are endangered, supported bees, butterflies and birds as well as a massive installation of solar panels. It was a treat for sore eyes and it made me hopeful again about the possibilities of technology. More information about the green roof can be found here.

The academy is housed in the largest LEED Platinum-rated public building and it is the greenest museum in the world. The innovative use of materials and energy efficiency have made it a model for green buildings.

The other thing that blew my mind was the planetarium. The Morrison planetarium is the biggest all-digital dome in the world with a 75-foot projection screen tilted at a 30 degree angle. The kind of imagery it produces gives you the feeling that you are flying in space especially because everything is happening above your head. To celebrate Earth Day they were show-casing 'Fragile Planet' narrated by Sigourney Weaver - truly goose-bump inducing stuff, stressing the importance of protecting the only home we know.

For anyone living in the Bay Area or visiting, the Academy is a must-see and provides an enjoyable day out for everyone in the family.