It has become increasingly clear that the design and building of living roofs is making a transition from early adoption to mainstream application. Driven by environmental policy, economic necessity, and social responsibility there is increasing emphasis on a “living systems” approach to building and vegetation design. The designs integrate and complement mechanical and plumbing operations. The operation of the built environment provides great opportunity for owners and occupants to apply green walls, living roofs, and water conservation strategies that enhance carbon sequestration, energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reuse, habitat renewal, and create a place of “well being”. I have been honored to work with creative designers, architects, and owners on brilliant projects that exemplify sustainable design, architectural ingenuity, community focus, and economic return. This piece highlights recent works, presenting current trends and future opportunity.
So far real estate developers and institutional investors are implementing living systems because the economic rationale for the development of sustainable buildings has advanced beyond anecdotal evidence. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a private non-profit organization, has developed the LEED (“Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”) green building rating system to encourage the “adoption of sustainable green building and development practices.” LEED requires the inclusion of living systems to qualify for certain green building performance objectives relative to site impacts, wildlife habitat, storm water efficiency, and innovation. LEED has been the driver for many Living System projects in San Francisco and elsewhere in the Country.
CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
In the heart of one of the country’s largest urban parks, the California Academy of Sciences is a pioneering LEED® Platinum Green Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Rana Creek Living Architecture worked with Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Chong and Partners Architecture, SWA Group, ARUP Engineering, and the Academy to create a living roof that covers 160,000 square feet of roof with four steeply sloped domes replicating the surrounding rolling hills.
The roof is planted with over 50 plant species native to San Francisco. The three-year research period during which Rana Creek Living Architecture designed, built and monitored a series of living roof mock-ups, informed this diverse assemblage of indigenous plants, as well as the soil retention and drainage techniques ultimately chosen for the project. The California Academy of Sciences is unique amongst natural history museums in its dedication to combining research and education under one roof.
In the heart of the East Bay, Rana Creek Living Architecture worked with McCall Design Group on a living system for this high-end urban retail space. Within the building design, ecological considerations were incorporated to enhance urban habitat, reduce, capture and treat stormwater on site, and improve air quality.
Through a diverse drought resistant plant assemblage, consisting of California native plants and sweet smelling cultivators, the building was brought to life through a combination of a living roof, stormwater planters, and a vertical Green Screen™ that will eventually cover the entire north, south and east walls. The 6,000 sq ft living roof reflects a native California landscape and provides shelter and valuable food sources for birds, bees and butterflies. In addition, the 5,300 sq ft of groundplane landscaping captures and treats stormwater as required by Emeryville’s stringent stormwater requirements. Rana Creek is thrilled to have contributed to this brownfield development and look forward to the day when all urban infill requires living systems to mitigate the impacts of the built environment.
Paul Kephart is the Executive Director of Rana Creek and Technical Consultant for Living Architecture. Founded in 1997 under the guiding principles of ecology, Rana Creek is a premier design and build firm offering an extensive portfolio of services in land-use planning, sustainable design, ecological consultation and habitat restoration. Our nursery provides quality plant material for the wholesale trade specializing in contract grow services.
Located on a 14,000-acre active ranch in the upper Carmel Valley watershed, Rana Creek’s goal is to replicate nature’s cycles, structure, function and diversity with each stage of project development. From compliance and permitting to project implementation, Rana Creek offers over 60 years combined experience in environmental planing and design. Our client list is comprised of world-renowned architects, developers, non-profits, land-use planners, government agencies, and community associations. Rana Creek’s team of professional biologists, ecologists, designers, contractors and horticultural specialists are well versed in the rapidly growing commerce of sustainable development.