Thursday, June 21, 2007

A New Green Era of Building in Los Angeles

I joined several department general managers—Gail Goldberg from Planning, Andrew Adelman from Building and Safety, Dee Allen from Environmental Affairs, Commissioner Paula Daniels of Public Works and Department of Water and Power Commission President David Nahai—and dozens of developers, builders, and environmental advocates as the city unveiled its green building proposal. Developed in partnership with non-profit Global Green, the legislation would fundamentally transform the city's built environment. As I noted in my post on DO REAL PLANNING principle # 7 (Produce Green Buildings), buildings consume 36% of our total energy, account for 30% of our greenhouse gas emissions, and use up 40% of raw materials worldwide.

We’re asking more from developers, but at the same time, we’re demanding much more from ourselves.

Our new proposal includes a new environmental baseline for building in the city, including a requirement that all buildings greater than 50,000 square feet or more than 50 units of housing be LEED Certified compliant. This requirement is matched by a city commitment to educate its staff about green building to handle the new baseline, and to provide public education and outreach on green building. Finally, the city is offering new incentives: expedited processing, financial grants, and technical assistance for developers and builders that chose to achieve an even higher level of sustainable building.

As a city, greening our buildings is the strongest tool we have at our disposal in the fight against global warming. In terms of global greenhouse gas (GHGs) production, buildings account for roughly the same percentage of GHGs as cars do, even though the burgeoning national consciousness has had disproportionately more focus on tailpipe emissions and MPG efficiency. While our counterparts at the state and federal level pursue higher emission standards for automobiles, Los Angeles is taking the lead in developing local solutions to a global crisis.

Buildings are the prism through which we can see many of the environmental issues that affect all communities - from greenhouse gas emissions to landfilling to urban runoff. Making it easier to build green in Los Angeles will help us all reduce our ecological footprint.