The Living Roof and its automated ventilation system on a sunny day.

In designing the Academy's current home, which opened in 2008, it was paramount that the building be a physical embodiment of our mission to explore, explain, and sustain life. Throughout the demolition of old Academy buildings and the construction of the new facility, we selected materials that would minimize the project’s impact on the environment.


When work began, 90 percent of demolition materials from the 12 buildings that previously stood at the site were recycled. That included:

  • 32,000 tons of sand from foundation excavation were applied to dune restoration projects in San Francisco.
  • 12,000 tons of steel were recycled and went to Schnitzer Steel
  • 9,000 tons of concrete were reused in Richmond roadway construction
  • 120 tons of greenwaste were recycled on site


In constructing the new building, eco-friendly materials were chosen to minimize the environmental impact of the project. Rather than using typical fiberglass or foam-based insulation, for example, we chose to use a type of thick cotton batting made from recycled blue jeans, a material that provides an organic alternative to formaldehyde-laden insulation materials. Recycled denim insulation also holds more heat and absorbs sound better than spun fiberglass insulation, and is safer to handle for the installers.

In addition, the concrete prevalent throughout the museum is made from 15 percent fly ash (a recycled byproduct of coal combustion) and 35 percent slag (the glass-like waste product of extracting metal from ore). This use of recycled content prevented the release of more than 5,375 tons of carbon emissions. Ninety-five percent of the building’s steel comes from recycled sources, and 50 percent of the lumber used was harvested from sustainable-yield forests. Local materials and products manufactured within 500 miles of the Academy account for at least 20 percent of building materials, reducing transportation impacts and supporting the regional economy.

We also select sustainable products and materials to support our ongoing operations.

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Our Mission

Learn more about the Academy’s mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration.