Sustaining Traditions In The Green City By The Bay

By Adam Busch
Co-Publisher & Owner, Green Space Today (GreenSpaceToday.com)
Executive VP, BXB Integrated Communications, Inc.

Green Space Today
California Academy of Sciences’ (CAS) Greg Farrington, Executive Director; Mayor Gavin Newsom; and architect Renzo Piano after the CAS’s opening ceremony / butterfly release on September 27, 2008
Drew Altizer Photography
Green Space Today
Dr. Jean Rogers, Registered Professional Engineer, LEED AP, Principal, Arup is currently based out of Arup’s San Francisco office. With her colleagues, the Academy’ leadership, and partnering companies including many local firms (for a complete list of sustainable contributors please visit http://www.calacademy.org/academy/building/), Dr. Rogers helped to create the California Academy of Sciences.
Courtesy of Arup

San Francisco is considered one of America’s greenest cities and is commonly ranked as one of the top five most sustainable cities in the U.S. As a leader of the green movement, San Francisco’s environmental accomplishments are vast. As a pioneer of the green movement, the city’s environmental influence on other cities is evident. Eco-consciousness, entrepreneurialism, organizing, and higher education continue to be traditions among the people in the San Francisco Bay Area. These embedded traditions help San Francisco sustain its legacy as a Mecca for progressive environmentalism.
 
Eco-consciousness has been a long-standing tradition in San Francisco. John Muir’s family immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1849, the year of San Francisco’s gold rush. John Muir, one of the most celebrated naturalists and conservationists, arrived in San Francisco on a sailboat in March of 1868. While Muir traveled around the world (during the course of his life), California became his home.

In California, Muir became infatuated with the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite and largely based his writings on these natural wonders. Muir’s works were passionate and influential and appealed to a broad base of people, including members of congress. Muir’s prose gave congress a better understanding of the importance of protecting places such as Yosemite in an age when national resources and wilderness were plentiful compared to present times. In 1901, he published Our National Parks, which appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt. After reading Our National Parks, Teddy Roosevelt visited Muir in Yosemite where they collectively developed Roosevelt’s national conservation initiatives.

Muir’s legacy is evident and carries on today. Through his efforts, Muir encouraged the first major federal environmental conservation programs. Also, Muir established and organized the Sierra Club in 1892, which continues to flourish. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Sierra Club http://www.sierraclub.org is one of the largest environmental groups in the United States. With a membership base of 1.3 million people, the Sierra Club’s goals include the promotion of clean energy solutions and green transportation (among others). Although headquartered in San Francisco, the Sierra Club’s outreach is national, following the approach of its founder John Muir.  

In an interview with Green Space Today, Terry Tamminen, author of Lives Per Gallon, former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency and former Chief Policy Advisor to Governor Schwarzenegger, and presently the Cullman Senior Fellow and Director of the Climate Policy Program of the New America Foundation and an Operating Advisor to Pegasus Capital Advisors, said “California is following San Francisco (in terms of sustainability) and the rest of the country is following California.” Green Space Today Terry Tamminen
Courtesy of Terry Tamminen

Even if not a member of the Sierra Club, residents of San Francisco and the Bay Area (at large) are surrounded by beautiful, natural scenic green spaces that have been protected by environmentalists like Muir and others such as David Brower, giving people the opportunity to connect with nature in their own back-yards. The peoples’ connection to the environment is showcased through the popularity of events such as the San Francisco Green Festival™. In 2008, this seventh annual festival drew a crowd of over 43,000 people.  

Green Space Today
The new California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco) faces the de Young museum, with the Music Concourse in between.
Photo © Tim Griffith

Green Space Today
Front of the CAS with the undulating roofline echoing Mount Sutro in the background.
Photo © Tim Griffith

Through this connection and with a rich history of environmental awareness (among other reasons), the people of San Francisco often choose to elect representatives such as Mayor Gavin Newsom, the 42nd Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, who are stewards of the environment and promoters of new green initiatives. One recent initiative includes the Green Rental Car Incentive Program. This program, launched by the San Francisco International Airport in January 2009, aims to reduce carbon emissions by at least 4 thousand tons annually by providing both travelers and car-rental companies with financial incentives for compliance. Customers who rent hybrid cars that attain an EPA rating of 18 or greater will be given a $15 discount.  Furthermore, rental-car companies who increase their sales of hybrid rentals will get a discounted airport rental fee.  

Green Space Today
Unlike traditional natural history museums, the CAS is filled with light.
Photo © Tim Griffith Photo

Green Space Today
The California Academy of Sciences’ 2.5-acre living roof is planted with nine species of native California plants that provide habitat for local wildlife.
Photo © Tim Griffith

Green Space Today
The Academy’s skylights in the roof allow sunlight to reach the living rainforest and coral reef. They also open automatically to allow heat to escape.
Photo © Tim Griffith
Green Space Today
A close-up of the roof's skylights reveals the rainforest dome directly underneath.
Photo © Tim Griffith

In Mayor Newsom’s blog on Green For All’s website, www.greenforall.org, Newsom wrote a column titled A Green Future for All Americans. In this column, posted on Jan 16, 2009, Newsom said, “As Congress debates Obama's plan to create millions of green jobs, it is critical to ensure that these jobs are inclusive and our money is spent wisely. In San Francisco, we are doing this through our solar incentive program, GoSolarSF, the nation's largest solar municipal rebate program. GoSolarSF offers a bigger rebate to companies that hire workers from the city's workforce development program. Since the program launched in July, applications for new solar installations have nearly quadrupled.” Terry Tamminen told Green Space Today, “Jared Blumenfeld, Director of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment and San Francisco’s Mayor are the architects of San Francisco’s environmental success.” Through new, innovative green programs such as GoSolarSF and the Green Rental Car Incentive Program, Mayor Newsom is carrying on the custom of environmental leadership in San Francisco.

While San Francisco is a relatively liberal American city with a track record of big government, it is unfair to undermine the great tradition of organizing, entrepreneurialism and business in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Businesses and individuals are meeting the demands of strict public policy and are creating environmental organizations, new sustainable developments and state-of-the-art green technologies. David Gottfried, CEO of Regenerative Ventures, which is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, founded the notorious U.S. Green Building Council and the World Green Building Council. The U.S. Green Building Council is a non-profit-organization committed to promoting buildings that are profitable, healthy (for people to live in and work in), and environmentally sound. The U.S. Green Building Council currently represents over 17 thousand organizations in 79 communities. Due to organizers in the Bay Area such as Gottfried, our environment is being improved on a global scale.  

Green Space Today asked Bay Area resident David Gottfried the following question: Could Oakland could become as sustainable as San Francisco, and if so, what resources does Oakland need to get to that level?
Gottfried replied, “I hope so, but that would require LEED for all city buildings and creating incentives for private businesses.”
Green Space Today
At the top of the rainforest dome, free-flying birds and butterflies flit through a Costa Rican canopy.
Photo © Tim Griffith

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to companies, such as Regenerative Ventures, that are making a positive environmental impact too. Gensler is an award-winning architectural firm headquartered in San Francisco. In Environmental News-Record’s 2008 listing (http://enr.construction.com/people/topLists/GreenDesign/topGreenDesign_1-50.asp) of top green design firms, Gensler ranked 3rd. The company has managed to implement sustainable design services in 31 markets throughout the globe. While headquartered in San Francisco, Gensler is creating sustainable designs (such as the design for the Shanghai Tower) on an international scale (http://www.gensler.com/#home/3). In an interview with Green Space Today, Kirsten Ritchie, P.E., LEED AP, Director of Sustainable Design, Gensler, said “San Francisco is an innovative city and trends often start in California. Being at the heart of sustainable activity has been wonderful. San Francisco has helped us (Gensler) to build our business in China and the Far East at large. California is truly the gateway to the Far East.”

San Francisco is home to smaller companies behind the green movement such as SunRun.  SunRun is a company that is dedicated to offering home owners affordable and accessible solar solutions through a residential solar power purchase agreement. One of SunRun’s founders, Nat Kraemer, helped establish the company after serving in the Navy’s Special Forces in Afghanistan.  In an interview with Nat Kraemer, COO, SunRun, Kraemer said, “We could have started SunRun in a different location, but there was a legacy of solar industry and entrepreneurialism in San Francisco. Also, San Francisco offered us the right resources with the convenience of mass transit. Having energy that we produce locally in America will help our competitiveness and our ability to uphold values that are not compromised by economic necessity.”

Green Space Today
At the top of the rainforest dome, free-flying birds and butterflies flit through a Costa Rican canopy.
Photo © Tim Griffith

Institutions, such as the California Academy of Sciences, are investing in sustainability for the benefit of the environment and people alike. The California Academy of Sciences’ new LEED Platinum facility, located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, is considered the greenest museum in the world. This 412,000 square foot, $500 million dollar museum, houses an aquarium, a planetarium, and a natural history museum. The California Academy of Sciences was designed by Renzo Piano and offers a 2.5 acre Living Roof that fosters considerable gains in heating and cooling efficiency. Surrounding the Living Roof is a glass canopy with 60,000 photovoltaic cells that produce solar power which minimizes the Academy’s carbon footprint. According to Aaron Pope, Manager of Sustainable Programs, California Academy of Sciences, “one of the most popular reasons people visit the building is the sustainable design itself.”

The Bay Area is home to premier educational institutions that offer top academic resources and research that propel the green movement not only in San Francisco and neighboring cities such as Berkeley, Oakland, and Palo Alto, but in communities throughout the world. The University of California-Berkeley is promoting green energy research. According to UC Berkeley News (http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2008/10/07_boxer.shtml), “Senator Barbara Boxer toured UC Berkeley's California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) on Monday, Oct. 6 (2008) and applauded the campus for taking a lead in green energy research as part of a wider effort to "free our country from foreign oil”. “A lot of that work is happening right here in this building," she told more than 150 students at a peace and conflict studies class in Stanley Hall, the campus's newly built multidisciplinary biosciences research facility, which houses QB3 laboratories, after her tour.”  

For the University of California at Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory and the Berkeley Institute of the Environment, Chris Jones developed the CoolClimate Calculator. This internet-based calculator was designed (in 2008) to help both individuals as well as municipalities control carbon emissions. The CoolClimate Calculator, in comparison to other carbon calculators, is more comprehensive and can capture all things individuals do to emit harmful carbon compounds. The CoolClimate Calculator has already been adopted and tailored to meet the needs of the California Air Resources Board. The California Air Resources Board has used the Cool Climate Calculator to create a Cool California Calculator that reflects carbon emissions in areas of California.

Green Space Today
David Gottfried, CEO, Regenerative Ventures, Founder of the U.S. Green Building Council & the World Green Building Council, in front of his family’s regenerative home in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, CA. For more information on David Gottfried’s LEED Platinum certified home, please visit gottfriedhome.com.
Green Space Today
Kirsten Ritchie, P.E., LEED AP, Director of Sustainable Design, Gensler. Kirsten Ritchie is also quoted in Gensler: Green Space Today’s 2009 Firm of the Month.
Courtesy of Gensler

Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA) is another shining example of a top tier college in the Bay Area that is behind the green movement. On January 2009, Stanford University announced that it is launching a new $100 million research institute, the Precourt Institute of Energy. The Precourt Institute of Energy will work toward the development of more economical and efficient ways to harvest solar power and distribute and utilize energy while reducing detrimental greenhouse gas emissions. Both UC-Berkeley and Stanford University are ranked as sustainable campuses as well. GreenReportCard.org, the first website to provide in-depth sustainability profiles for hundreds of colleges in all 50 U.S. States and Canada, gave both UC-Berkeley and Stanford University a high grade of B+ in its College Sustainability Report Card (2008).

Green Space Today
The solar canopy creates a special quality of light, which Piano describes as "vibrating light."
Photo © Tim Griffith

Through Stanford University and UC-Berkeley (among other higher learning educational institutions in the Bay Area), new green innovations are being created on sustainable campuses that enhance eco-consciousness among the student body comprised of pupils from countries around the world. Furthermore, some alumni of these universities such as David Gottfried who earned a degree in Engineering & Resource Management at Stanford University are environmental leaders who have shared their expertise and passion not only with their alma maters and communities in the Bay Area, but to individuals and companies in several countries.  In an interview with Green Space Today, Professor James Sweeney, Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency, said “Stanford’s student body, administration and trustees, alumni and faculty are committed to sustainability. Stanford’s faculty members have taken leadership on broad sustainability questions and have been working with companies and policy-makers in California, the US, and the world.”

San Francisco, like all other American cities, can become more sustainable. However, government, people, companies, and institutions in San Francisco and in other green cities in the Bay Area are upholding embedded environmental traditions. These traditions, combined with rooted progressiveness, will continue to expand and enhance sustainability in and out of the Bay Area for years to come.

 

Green Space Today
Renzo Piano's original sketch for the new California Academy of Sciences, featuring a rolling living roof.

Green Space Today
Nat Kraemer, COO, SunRun,
Courtesy of SunRun

Green Space Today
From a viewing balcony on the third floor, visitors can appreciate the extreme curvature of the roof.
Photo © Tim Griffith

Green Space Today
A central piazza, with a rectangle opening in the glass ceiling, is a key part of the building’s natural ventilation plan.
Photo © Tim Griffith

Green Space Today
James Sweeney, Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency, Stanford University
Courtesy of Stanford University and James Sweeney

Adam Busch can be contacted via e-mail at abusch@greenspacetoday.com