New Pier 15 Location to Offset Energy, Using Building Infrastructure and Energy-Efficiency Systems
The Exploratorium, the global leader in informal learning, today announced its intent to become the largest net-zero energy use museum in the U.S., if not the world. This goal is being supported by the Exploratorium’s new partnership with SunPower, a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high efficiency solar technology. The Exploratorium’s new home will use a 1.3-megawatt SunPower solar power system to offset its electricity demand.
Opening in Spring 2013 on San Francisco’s bustling Embarcadero, the Exploratorium, with its 330,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space on Pier 15, is being planned so that all aspects of design and construction contribute to the net-zero energy goal. True to the spirit of the Exploratorium–and the nature of net-zero – achieving such an ambitious degree of energy-efficiency will require monitoring and tinkering over the next couple of years. The entire undertaking will be a real-time educational exhibit, with live energy use and photovoltaic production on public display.
“This project combines an effort to both innovate and think critically about the impact science can have on the world. Our net-zero goal is, in part, a way to reduce our global footprint and help improve the community we’ve been a part of for more than 40 years,” said Dennis Bartels, PhD, Executive Director of the Exploratorium. “Net-zero is a process – and an opportunity for the public to learn with us.”
The new structure will employ a wide range of measures to offset energy use, including:
5,874 high-efficiency solar panels have been installed on the Exploratorium roof, which will offset 33,150 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the 30-year life of the system. The solar panel system has the capacity to generate enough power to provide energy to more than 1,000 average American homes each year and is equivalent to removing 5,910 cars from California’s highways. Any energy unused by the Exploratorium will be fed into the utility grid for use by other PG&E customers.
Bay Water Heating and Cooling System
A team of engineers from Integral Group, architects from EHDD and marine contractors from Power Engineering Construction Company and Nibbi Brothers General Contractor have developed an innovative Bay Water Heating and Cooling System that will regulate the museum’s indoor temperature. Bay water is first filtered and cleaned, then pumped through a heat exchanger. A clean water closed loop circulation system is on the other side of the heat exchanger. The bay provides the cooling to this loop. Heating is provided by passing the clean closed water loop through electric heat pumps. The heated or cooled water is then a pumped through a loop of serpentine pipes in the floors providing heating and cooling throughout the museum. An estimated 73,800 gallons of water will re?circulate hourly through the facility.
The Bay Water Heating and Cooling System will save two million gallons of water annually by avoiding the use of evaporative cooling towers for heat rejection. In addition, 16 percent of the water collected from roof runoff will be reused for toilet flushing; the rest will be filtered and returned to the bay. The building has waterless urinals and low flow plumbing fixtures.
Indoor Environment and Infrastructure
The interior of the museum has large exhibit galleries separated by buildings within the main building that are set in from the walls to take advantage of natural light, reducing the energy needed to power the facility during the day. In addition, recycled and low-emitting materials will be used, along with certified wood and high-performance glass to reduce heat gain.
“This has been an exceptional project to work on given the unique location and historic context, providing us with rich challenges and opportunities to design a world-class, environmentally-friendly home for the Exploratorium,” said Marc L'Italien, Principal at EHDD Architecture. “This project has allowed us to set a whole new standard for sustainable architecture, and as a bonus, our collective work toward net-zero will make the building itself a living, educational exhibit for generations to come.”
For more information on the Exploratorium’s net-zero efforts, please see complete press kit here.