Forget green roofs - this whole building lives

Green roofs are so yesterday. Meet the designers who will wrap an entire office block in plants.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all RSS FEEDS (close)

Rana Creek founder Paul Kephart
Rana Creek
Business: Green architecture
Location: Carmel Valley, Calif.
Employees: 42
2008 Revenues: $6.5 million

CARMEL VALLEY, Calif. (Fortune Small Business ) -- There aren't many cutting-edge urban architecture firms in Carmel Valley, Calif., a placid expanse of gnarled oak trees and steep, grassy hills about 120 miles south of San Francisco. But this is where you'll find Rana Creek, a 14-year-old, $6.5 million company that converts city buildings into countryscapes.

Last year Rana Creek founder Paul Kephart put together an audacious plant-covered roof for the new California Academy of Sciences, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Green roofs are becoming commonplace across the U.S., but no others yet have hills.

Now Rana Creek hopes to bring the country to San Francisco in its boldest project yet. Pending a city permit, ground will be broken on the first commercial structure in the U.S. with "living walls." The 10-story building, 110 Embarcadero, will have plants growing out of the spaces between floors on the building's glass exterior. Vines will snake around vertical and horizontal trellises on three sides of the building.

Kephart, 53, knew how to sell the project. "You never tell a developer, 'Together we'll save the world,' " he says. "You tell him, 'We'll build a highly resource-efficient building, save you money ... and together we can save the world.' "

The living walls will be integrated with the building's irrigation system. Their soil will filter gray water from sink and shower drains so that it can be reused. Along with a green roof, the living walls will absorb an estimated 70% of the rain that falls on the building, capturing pollutants and keeping them out of the city's storm drains. Rana Creek says the walls will reduce water usage by 66%.

The company also estimates 110 Embarcadero will use 67% less energy. In summer, living walls can keep a building 20 degrees cooler inside than it would otherwise be. In winter, the vines will thin out, allowing more of the sun's rays to enter the building.

The building's developer, Hines, won't reveal its budget but admits that the company is taking a risk on an "expensive" project. Says Hines senior vice president Paul Paradis: "San Francisco tenants will pay a little extra to be in a building this responsible."

Kephart has excited his peers, at least.

"There are some beautiful green walls in Europe, but they don't serve a purpose," says Kevin Burke, director of practice at William McDonough + Partners, a leading sustainable architecture firm. "Paul is saying, 'How can we integrate that into the metabolism of a building? Can it serve a function?' That's what intrigues us."  To top of page

To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.

QMy dream is to launch my own business someday. Now that it's time to choose a major, I'm debating if I should major in entrepreneurial studies or major in engineering to acquire a set of skills first. Is majoring in entrepreneurship a good choice? More
Get Answer
- Spate, Orange, Calif.

More Galleries
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.