California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a sustainable building located in Golden Gate Park. Its green roof has rolling hills covered with 1.7 million native plants that help keep the building interior cool.

Retractable Roof

A polycarbonate retractable roof nestled among the rolling hills allows light into the piazza below while protecting the space from rain and cold. In favorable weather conditions, the retractable roof provides a 42 by 30-foot opening, turning the piazza into an outdoor area.

The new weather-tight panels, which replaced an existing fabric shade, allow the academy to offer programs and house exhibits in the piazza atrium, making it a more usable space that fits better with with the green building design aesthetic.

The roof has two polycarbonate panels that slide along the eight supporting arches and meet in the middle when closed. The panels are driven approximately 6 feet per minute by four 1-hp belt drives, moving between the open and closed positions in approximately 2 minutes, 45 seconds. The fully automatic roof operating system is linked into the building-wide control system with an iPad interface.

General Information

Completed: 2012
Location: Golden Gate Park; San Francisco, California
Scope of Work: Design, Supply, Installation, Inspections & Preventive Maintenance

Project Team

Architect: Renzo Piano
Structural Engineer: Walter P Moore



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