Exploratorium Sets Sights on Net-Zero Energy Goal for New Waterfront Home Opening Spring 2013

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New Pier 15 Location to Offset Energy, Using Building Infrastructure and Energy-Efficiency Systems

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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:

●    Solar Power: 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 to heat or cool the separate fresh water loop of serpentine pipes in the floors providing heat and cooling throughout the museum. An estimated 73,800 gallons of water will re-circulate hourly through the facility.

●    Water Conservation: 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 the sustainability fact sheet and today’s SunPower partnership announcement.

About the Exploratorium
The Exploratorium is the global leader in informal learning, igniting curiosity and inspiring creativity in people of all ages. The world-renowned science museum creates original, interactive exhibits, on display at more than 1,000 science centers, museums and public spaces around the world. Dedicated to education reform in and out of the classroom, the Exploratorium is a premier professional development center for educators and a creator of award-winning educational resources. Since 1969, the Exploratorium has influenced generations of entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, teachers, students, children, museum professionals and everyday doers, reaching 180 million people annually from around the globe. In the spring of 2013, the Exploratorium will move to Pier 15 in the heart of San Francisco's waterfront district, where it will celebrate a new era of experiences that encourage critical thinking and awaken wonder for generations to come. For more information, visit http://www.exploratorium.edu.

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