A series of rolling hillocks, spotted with blooming asters, chalky green succulents and clusters of wild strawberries rise up around Scott Moran. Butterflies flit from flower to flower as he watches a pair of red-tailed hawks teach their young to hunt from the hill tops.
Moran is not on a stroll in the secluded countryside. Instead, he is standing on top of the building in the middle of San Francisco where he works every day, taking a short break for lunch. The bustling sounds city life assail him from all sides.
Moran works at the California Academy of Sciences, which is capped by 2.5 acres (1 hectare) of living roof where nearly 1.7 million plants, insects and birds flourish. The building has been painstakingly designed to be among one of the most environmentally-friendly in the world. Solar panels that surround the living roof provide 5% of the building’s energy, while water flowing through pipes in the bathrooms also generates power. Automatic skylights open and close to help regulate the temperature inside the building while natural sunlight is used to illuminate as much of it as possible.
During his 15 years at the Academy, Moran has helped design, build and now – as senior director of exhibits and architecture – maintain the building’s green systems. It is the type of role he believes is going to become far more important in the future.
“It is becoming much clearer that buildings need to be designed and used in a way to save as much energy and water as possible,” says Moran. “This requires some sophisticated technology and there is going to be a lot of demand for people with the skills to make this happen.”