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Sustainability Fact Sheet: Environmentally Conscious Inside and Out

Sustainability Fact Sheet: Environmentally Conscious Inside and Out

The Exploratorium at Pier 15 is on track to receive a LEED Gold rating.


The Exploratorium's goal is to have a net-zero energy operation and become the largest net-zero energy museum in the U.S.1 

The proposed building is predicted to use 47 kBtu/sq.ft./yr or 57% less energy than a comparable ASHRAE 90.1 baseline building.

The project has (5,874) SunPower SPR-245 high efficiency PV modules.  Each module is 13.4 sq. ft.., therefore the total area of the module themselves = 78,712 sq. ft.

These solar panels will provide 1.262 MW-AC (Mega-Watts AC) megawatts of peak AC power kWh-AC/sq. ft./year  or 2,113,715 kWh-AC/yr.

The HVAC system takes advantages of the museum’s location on a pier over the San Francisco bay by circulating bay water through two titanium heat exchangers. The bay water fluctuates between 50°F and 66°F seasonally and is used as a heat source and heat sink to efficiently produce hot and chilled water for the building’s radiant slab. This also eliminates the need for cooling towers.

High performance, fritted glass in covered the walkway and Observatory will limit heat gain and provide a bird-friendly façade.


Domestic hot water is supplied by high efficiency tankless  electric water heaters.

Total domestic water savings of 50-60%, or roughly one million gallons annually, are expected. 2

16% of the roof area will capture and store up to 338,000 gallons of rainwater for toilet flushing and floor drain trap-primers. Unused roof water runoff will be filtered before being returned to the bay.

Two million gallons of potable water will be saved annually by avoiding the use of evaporative cooling towers for heat rejection. 3

Public Access

Easily accessible by public transportation and includes ample bike parking.

A public plaza with educational exhibits that examine natural phenomenon will be created by removing more than 50,000 sq. ft. of the existing paved deck.

Partnership with NOAA brings climate and ocean sciences to Exploratorium audiences.

Indoor Environmental Quality

Better indoor air quality is achieved through the ventilation of 100% outside air. There is no recirculation.

Galleries and interior clusters were designed to take advantage of natural daylight and maximize views.

Advanced lighting controls will help limit energy use.

Low-emitting materials and materials with recycled content will be used along with certified wood.


  1. Compared against all  projects listed in the U.S. Department of Energy’s High Performance Buildings Database (
  2. Based on 300 FTE and 4000 visitors per day and LEED 2009 baseline.
  3. Based on ASHRAE 90.1 baseline building heat rejection requirements.

For more information on the Exploratorium’s net-zero efforts, please see complete press kit here.


About the Exploratorium

Exploratorium logo

The Exploratorium is a portal to the astonishing scientific phenomena that animate our world and shape our actions. We create extraordinary learning experiences that ignite curiosity, upend perceptions, and inspire brave leaps forward. Since 1969, the Exploratorium’s museum in San Francisco has been home to a renowned collection of exhibits that draw together science, art, and human perception, and that have changed the way science is taught. Our award-winning programs provide a forum for the public to engage with artists, scientists, policymakers, educators, and tinkerers to explore the world around them. We celebrate diversity of thought, inspired investigation, and collaboration across all boundaries.

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