Exploratorium Wins LEED Platinum

The US Green Building Council has announced that it has awarded LEED Platinum certification, its highest award category, to the Exploratorium.

Situated on Pier 15 on San Francisco Bay, with 330,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, the museum is also striving to become one of the first and largest, net zero museums in the world. (Net zero buildings generate at least as much energy as they consume over the course of a year.)

“LEED Platinum certification sets the stage for us to continue on with our sustainability goals as we work towards achieving net-zero energy,” comments Shani Krevsky, Exploratorium Campus Project Director.

Integral Group designed the Exploratorium’s mechanical and plumbing systems, which include an innovative radiant heating and cooling system that exchanges energy with the bay and a rainwater collection system that’s used to flush toilets.

“Installing the baywater system also meant we were able to avoid installing a cooling tower, which saves over a million gallons of potable water a year,” says Joseph Wenisch, who managed the project for Integral Group.

“Not only is this building designed with the intent to be net zero energy, it is also low carbon because we designed the building to use no natural gas,” Wenisch adds.

Now that the Exploratorium construction is complete and the building is occupied, the design team has begun monitoring the building’s energy performance. “There is every reason to believe the Exploratorium will perform at net zero over the course of the year,” Wenisch says.

More than 300 electrical meters installed in the building monitor lighting, equipment and plug loads. “This will be a 50- or 100-year building so monitoring provides a continual process to learn how this building can grow over time.  Our next steps are to make the building performance more transparent and put more information on display,” Wenisch says.

The world-renowned science museum has already incorporated education about net zero energy as part of a real-time exhibit, with live energy use and photovoltaic production on public display. The museum also develops online exhibits for its 12 million a year online visitors.

“That’s why we wanted to work on this. Because it reaches so many kids and kids really believe it’s possible to do a net positive building,” Wenisch explains. “The impact on young people is so huge.”

To learn more about the Exploratorium’s net zero energy goals, and its 1.3-megawatt solar power system and baywater heating and cooling system, please see the Exploratorium Net Zero Press Kit.

Our new book Revolutionary Engineering features the inside story of designing the Exploratorium.

The principal design team for the Net Zero, LEED Platinum project consisted of: EHDD Architects, Nibbi Brothers as general contractor, Dave Nelson & Associates on lighting, Rutherford + Chekene on structural engineering, Cammisa + WIPF on electrical engineering and Integral Group on mechanical and plumbing.