Greenroof Project of the Week for October 21, 2013: California Academy of Sciences, The Osher Living Roof

October 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm Project of the Week: 10/21/13

California Academy of Sciences,
The Osher Living Roof
San Francisco, CA, USA

197,000 sq. ft Greenroof


Project Description & Details

In the heart of one of the country’s largest urban parks, the award-winning LEED Platinum California Academy of Sciences stands proudly as a green museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Its 2.5-acre undulating Osher Living Roof sits 35 feet in the air planted with a variety of native wildflowers and other species. The mounds on the roof are dotted with circular skylights fitted with heat sensors, and the skylights open to further cool the building when a certain temperature is reached. The planted area is surrounded by 60,000 photovoltaic cells that supply 5 to 10 percent of the academy’s energy needs and prevent the release of more than 405,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Rana Creek Living Architecture worked with Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Chong and Partners Architecture, SWA Group, ARUP Engineering, and the Academy to design the living roof that covers the vegetated roof with seven dramatic hills of four steeply (almost 60 degrees) sloped domes – replicating the surrounding rolling hills. An open-air observation terrace enables visitors to get a close-up look at the roof’s lush canopy of plants.

Year: 2007
Owner: California Academy of Sciences
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Building Type: Museum
Type: Extensive, Test/Research
System: Custom
Size: 197,000 sq. ft
Slope: 65%
Access: Inaccessible, By Appointment


Designers/Manufacturers of Record:

Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Architect: Chong Partners Architecture
Engineering and Sustainability Consulting: Arup
Landscape Architecture: SWA Group
Greenroof Consultant: Rana Creek Living Architecture
Ecological Consultant: Paul Kephart, Rana Creek
General Contractor: Webcor Builders
Waterproofing: American Hydrotech
Building Envelope Design Consultant – Waterproofing Design: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
Modular Greenroof System: BioTray™ by Tremco
Senior Curator of Botany: Frank Almeda, California Academy of Sciences

Photos courtesy of Tom Fox, SWA Group.

Click here to see more information about this project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

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Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities: Student Designers Challenged to Make Cities More Resilient

August 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm

So now that you’ve heard of “The Great Community Resiliency Project Contest” – how about you students or new grads out there entering the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities‘ “CitiesAlive Student Design Challenge?”

Read on from Rebecca Black of GRHC:

Post-secondary students and recent graduates across North America are invited to imagine and create ‘resilient communities’ by using living architecture – green roofs and walls – to redesign a community center in central San Francisco, California.

The CitiesAlive Student Design Challenge, hosted on landscape architecture social media platform (, is an academic element of the green roof and wall industry’s annual CitiesAlive Green Roof and Wall Conference (, which takes place in San Francisco from October 23 – 26 2013 and is hosted by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities ( in partnership with the City of San Francisco Planning Department and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Students will submit designs online at to transform the Tenderloin location – an ethnically diverse but highly urbanized landscape with limited open and recreational space – into a facility that would provide expanded space for the district’s 4,000 children to connect with nature through rooftop and wall green space and gardening, and the chance to learn about sustainable use of energy and water. The contest entry deadline is September 22nd.

First place prizing is $2000 cash. The top 8 designs will receive complimentary student passes to the CitiesAlive Green Roof and Wall Conference in October and – for those who used Vectorworks within their project – a professional license of Vectorworks Designer 2014 with Renderworks. Winning designs will be displayed at the CitiesAlive trade show on October 23rd and 24th, at a green roof and wall themed Nightlife event at the Academy of Sciences on October 24th, and online at

CitiesAlive Student Design Challenge judges include esteemed landscape architects and planning professionals from the City of San Francisco’s Departments of Planning and Public Works, plus qualified professionals from the Land8 and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities community. The contest is sponsored by Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc., greenscreen©, Permaloc, and LiveRoof, in partnership with the Northern California chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

See you!

For more information on CitiesAlive and the CitiesAlive Student Design Challenge contact Rebecca Black, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities at / 416 535-2586.

Sounds like fun – it will be great to see all the entries in San Francisco!

~ Linda V.

Early Bird Deadlines for CitiesAlive in San Francisco Extended to Friday, July 26, 2013!

July 23, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Have you registered yet for the 2013 CitiesAlive Conference?  The Early Bird Registration and Trade Show Deadlines have been extended to this Friday, July 26, 2013 – don’t miss your opportunity to save up to $300!

GRHC: 2013 CitiesAlive in San Francisco

Held on October 23 -26 in beautiful San Francisco, the 2013 CitiesAlive theme is Securing Urban Resiliency with Living Architecture: Food – Water – Energy

CitiesAlive offers a unique opportunity to explore how we can design buildings and communities focused on resiliency, using innovative tools such as living architecture. In light of extreme weather we must ensure that we are securing urban resiliency in our cities. People must have access to clean water, and secure energy and food. 

New: The CitiesAlive Student Design Challenge has been launched! Students can win cash and Vectorworks licences. Click here for details and to enter today.” ~ Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC)

CitiesAlive 2013 Speakers

CitiesAlive Highlights:

• Panel on resiliency with visionary designers including Eric Corey Freed (organicARCHITECT) and Peter Busby (Perkins+Will)

• Opening plenary exploring the San Francisco TransBay Terminal, with leaders such as Harlan L. Kelly Jr. (San Francisco Public Utilities Commission) and Adam Greenspan (PWP Landscape Architecture)

• Over 95 speakers exploring how green infrastructure is a key solution in creating resilient urban spaces, with a strong focus
on food, water, and energy

• Nightlife and delegate reception at the phenomenal California Academy of Sciences

• And much, much more

Tell GRHC how living architecture can help us build more resilient cities, and you could win a free delegate pass to CitiesAlive.

Read the CitiesAlive 4-page center spread in the new issue of the Living Architecture Monitor: the Business Case issue.

Register Now.

Please visit for more info or contact

See you in the beautiful City by the Bay?  Although always a pleasure and one of my favorite cities in the world, I’m sure it will be awesome in the fall.  CitiesAlive 2013 is not to be missed!

~ Linda V., ASLA, LEED AP, GRP

GPW: San Francisco Residential Living Wall

July 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm Project of the Week: 7/18/11
San Francisco Residential Living Wall
San Francisco, CA, USA
330 sf. Greenroof

Year: 2010
Owner: Michelle Bond
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Building Type: Single-Family Residential
Type: Green Façade
System: Single Source Provider
Size: 330 sq.ft.
Slope: 100%
Access: Accessible, Private

Project Description & Details

A newly remodeled modern house in San Francisco sits on a bottom of a hillside with a significant retaining wall at the rear of the property.  The backyard is sunken into the hill edged with three large, tall concrete walls surrounded by greenery; the space is terraced into two large open spaces with raised beds along the backside.   The owner/designer’s mission was to develop the space into a striking display of vertical gardens that would take advantage of the walls to their utmost possibilities.   The goal was to create and display a living wall that brings biodiversity, beauty and enjoyment to the owner’s familial lifestyle.  This planting display is modeled after a natural vertical garden similar to a woodland cliff on a north facing hill in California.   The vision of 75 varieties of shade loving plants, a mixture of subtropical plants with northwestern ferns and fern-allies, gives the wall its lush looking state.

The framework of the living wall was made out of Tournesol Siteworks modules and bracket systems, consisting of 96 VGM modules measuring 20″x20″ and 10″ deep with 1,536 plants.   The growing medium was made with a locally available 50/50 mix of coir based “Ultra Potting Soil” and perlite, although Tournesol Siteworks typically recommends a less-organic lightweight mix (90/10 inorganic/organic).   A fertigation system was installed with the irrigation system to replenish nutrients in the soil otherwise lost by water constantly dripping down through the modules.  After six months, the wall is approximately 85% filled in and the plants are thriving.

Designers/Manufacturers of Record

Owner, Greenwall Designer: Michelle Bond, Thumbellina Gardens
Greenwall Manufacturer: Tournesol Siteworks
Plant Suppliers: Sloat Garden Center, Flora Grubb Gardens, San Francisco Foliage, & Pacific Nurseries
Irrigation: Ewing Irrigation Products & The Urban Farmer
General Contractor: Ral Dasco
Fertigation Tanks and Fertilizers Supplier: GYOSF INC

Additional Info

Installed in late November 2010, the San Francisco Residential Living Wall had been in planning for six months prior to the installation.   When the homeowner/Thumbellina Gardens landscape designer Michell Bond moved in to the newly remodeled home with the large retaining wall in the back, the terraced backyard was also newly planted with nice but subdued plantings.   So Michelle wanted to redesign the space for maximum viewing pleasure and place her own designer’s aesthetic to the  open space, plus she wanted to really green up the bland, barren wall!

First, since the original retaining wall  had three different elevations, it had to  built up so that it would be level across the top in order to accommodate her design of the 12 feet high and 27.5 feet wide living wall.

Designer Michelle had each module numbered to easily follow her planting plan below:

Each Tournesol Siteworks VGM module was planted with 16 4″ plants, one per window.   To get the plants acclimated to their eventual vertical position, after  three weeks of planting the modules were  tilted 45 degrees.  It took 3-4 weeks for the plants to perk up and settle into their new modular pockets and were ready for installation a few weeks later.

Here are  the 50 species (not including varieties)  of plants that were used throughout the wall, including:

Aeonium “Mint Saucer,” Acorus gramineus, Aloe, Serrisa, Adiantum pedatum, Blechnum, Campanula   Porcharskyana, Carex   fraseri, Crassula, Cissus rhombifolia, Cupressus macrocarpa, Daphne cneruom, Dryopteris erythrosa, Davallia trichomanoides, Euphorbia, Anthericum sanderii, Fatsia japonica, Glechoma hederacea, Gaultheria procumbens, Hedera helix (ivy), Iris, Pellea rotundifolia, Iberis sempervirens, Juniper c.   procumbems nana, Lomandra longifolia, Fuchsia, Nephrolepis cordata, Ophiopogon japonicus, Oxalis oregana, Pellea falcata, Polypodum, Erigeron, Polystichum tsus sinensis, Plectranthus, Polystichum munitum,  Tradescantia, Pyrrosia (staghorn fern), Sedum dasyphyllum, Selaginella (moss), Silene uniflora, Solerolii (baby tears), Sequoia sempervirens, Saxifraga, Achemilla, Vacinuum, Sesleria,   Cymbalaria muralis, Vrisea, and Viola hederacea.

Michelle says that the only plants that have had difficulty were the Serissa, Vrisea, and the Alocasia and that all the others are loving their new high-attention  status in the backyard!

See the Tournesol Siteworks’ blog post about it here.

Did we miss something?   We’d love to hear from you! Click here to see more information about this project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database. See how you can submit yours here.

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.