As a world-class destination for shopping, beaches, and celebrity sightings, your LA story depends on where you look. Sustainability in the built environment is all around.

Gaze upward, and you’ll find the skyline dotted with cranes. Mixed-use neighborhoods and the soon-to-be tallest hotel on the West Coast are shooting skyward, providing thousands of construction jobs. Along with the newest architectural darling, the Broad Museum, you’ll find historic gems that serve our local government. Don’t miss the LA Department of Water & Power’s John Ferraro Building, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a LEED for Existing Building Certification this year.

You can expect to see gridlock traffic, but you can also find yourself with thousands of Angelenos biking or walking down Sunset Boulevard (closed to cars during ciLAvia). At the end of the day, how about becoming carbon neutral by sipping an organic cocktail from the city’s only distillery? Very LA.

We welcome you to visit LA in October 2016 when we host the International Greenbuild Conference & Expo for the first time. Until then, read on to see what we’ve been up to in the City of Angels.

Retrofit: LADWP

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Within the walls of this modestly brutalist architecture, located in downtown LA, is where over 900 LA city water and power employees have worked for decades.

The historic Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) John Ferraro Building just recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Presenting the storied building with a LEED Silver certification marked the occasion, a distinction earned by adding a variety of energy efficiency installations since the 1990s with the assistance of the “deep green” engineers at Integral Group. Among these were solar panel parking lot fixtures and electric vehicle charging stations. A thorough overhaul of lighting and cooling systems enabled the plant to effectively curb consumption while exterior grounds were scrapped and water conservation gardens were implemented in their place.

01_LADWP_SolarPanelsAll this, amazingly, took place long before the prospects of chasing a LEED accreditation were even discussed. In fact, innovations were being adopted before it had yet assumed its John Ferraro Building name. In the 1960s when the headquarters building was constructed, it bore the comparatively simplistic title General Office Building, and even then, teams worked to regulate the climate—ultimately reducing its HVAC consumption by a third. Later, when the headquarters renamed in honor of a long-serving city council president, the transition symbolized a new era and thus a new frontier of sustainability.

Infrastructure: LA River

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Notoriously dry pockets of the Los Angeles River will be repurposed as public attractions for LA residents.

Once the primary source of water for many southern Californians, the Los Angeles River is now mostly scant and dry, aside from when it sees heavy rainfall and severe weather. Residents occupying much of its flood plain have suffered through reckless and unpredictable floods that often caused considerable damage to infrastructure. But in 2009, a nonprofit group founded by the city, the LA River Revitalization Corporation, was born to coordinate resorting the river. This year, renowned architect Frank Gehry joined the group and a $1.35 billion Army Corps of Engineers project to restore 11 miles of the 51-mile river with walkways, bike paths, and parks is underway. Although the full restoration of the dry riverbed is reported to cost $100 million a mile (with no set plans for where the funding will come from), 2015’s exciting developments bode well for the future of the river.

Local Business: Greenbar Distillery

Greenbar Distillery boats the world’s largest portfolio of organic handcrafted spirits, including vodka, gin, tequila, whiskey, rum, and liqeur.
Greenbar Distillery boats the world’s largest portfolio of organic handcrafted spirits, including vodka, gin, tequila, whiskey, rum, and liqeur.

One of the most effective means of inspiring sustainability is by imbuing a sense of pride in a people’s local community. When one’s living community is celebrated as a badge of honor, people and business owners alike are encouraged to shop locally. Such is the case with Greenbar Distillery, which boasts “the world’s largest portfolio of organic, handcrafted spirits,” the husband-and-wife duo mans a seemingly endless liquor cabinet stocked with their original takes on rum, tequila, whiskey, gin, bitters, and fruity liqueurs.

In addition to sourcing local produce, they also adhere to a strict set of business ethics to concoct their libations by limiting themselves to organic ingredients, opting for recyclable lightweight bottling, and planting one tree per bottle sold. This year Greenbar will soon be offering infusion classes that allow guests to infuse their own spirits, on top of the current tours/tasting they offer weekly.

Policy: pLAn

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Planting the seed for sustainability in April of this year, Mayor Eric Garcetti carved in stone “The Sustainable City pLAn,” a set of policy implementations aimed at sustaining the environment of Los Angeles while at the same strengthening its economy and social equity. One of central focuses of the pLAn pertains to maximal harvesting of local resources. As Los Angeles enjoys a sunbath year round, the pLAn entails equipping the city with solar energy technologies. Inversely, the condition California’s water supply is less rich as the state struggles waist-deep in the midst of a drought. The pLAn will work to remedy this by enabling plants to capture and clean stormwater in reign back dependence on imported water. Here’s a breakdown of just what the pLAn will tackle:

Environment: 

Protecting LA’s environment ensures that we harness our natural resources efficiently and effectively, while providing a clean, healthy, and safe city for present and future generations of Angelenos.

Economy:

Strengthening the economy of Los Angeles ensures we can satisfy our basic needs for housing, jobs, mobility, and resiliency.

Equity:

Building equity in our city ensures all Angelenos have access to healthy, livable neighborhoods. It also strengthens a sense of collective ownership of our com
mon future.

Lead By Example:

The city of Los Angeles has long been a leader on environmental, economic, and social equity issues. Leading by example on sustainability performance, inspires both Angelenos and the nation to take action.

Transport: cicLAvia

05_cicLAvia_2“Tactical urbanism” is the way that a growing number of proactive urban cyclists are describing (and working to promote) the mingling of healthy living and alternative transport in LA. Drawing inspiration from the weekly Columbian tradition, CicLAvia temporarily shuts down certain roads and extends an open invitation to denizens all over the greater Los Angeles area to partake in a critical mass, cycling across routes whose vehicular congestion may typically prohibit pedestrian cyclists. This year, former deputy mayor Romel Pascual was named the new executive director of CicLAvia after serving on the CicLAvia board and actively aiding in the organization’s expansion.

Workplace: Gensler’s GLUMAC LA

06_Glumac_LobbyGensler’s GLUMAC LA project is a stunning example of reinventing and applying basic energy efficient design reformations that include quantifiable upticks in human health and productivity to modern workplaces. Designed with an “open office plan,” the GLUMAC encourages a sense of community and promotes teamwork while allowing plentiful washes of natural daylight permeate richly.
Rather than the tired cubicle floor model, Gensler’s design instead features eight-seating “neighborhood” workstations, facilitates the exchange of ideas, and fosters a climate of collectivity that better treats creative collaboration between parties. As part of the project’s Net Zero Certification validation, its energy consumption has been tracked throughout 2015, and it’s set to officially be certified by the end of the year.

Commercial: Energy Resource Center

In the conception of the Southern California Gas Company’s (SoCalGas) Energy Resource Center, the aim was to serve as a “one-stop idea shop”—a place where customers can quickly and easily come to find the most efficient and least expensive energy solutions best tailored to their own individual energy needs. While “technical assistance, energy, and air quality computer tools and simulations, as well as air quality and environmental information” are among the many energy-efficient services offered by the ERC, their green merits are on full display before you even enter the building.

07_ERCDesigned by a nine-member team of specialists of differing expertise, the building itself was constructed by using recycled materials from the previously standing building (erect in 1957), 62% of that which was demolished. Sleuthing through the various rooms and hallways of the ERC, multiple energy industry themes are represented. Among them, according to the SoCalGas website are, “air quality, combustion, climate control, large equipment, residential new construction, food-service equipment, natural daylighting, and natural gas vehicles.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the building performs best in what’s exhibited by ERC’s very name: energy. The ERC earned an Energy Star Building distinction from the US EPA, surpassing code by 45%. This was due in part to a variety of smart building strategies pertaining to the building envelope, applying roof and window coating techniques to reduce HVAC overconsumption. T-8 compact fluorescent bulbs, translucent window walls, and skylights reduced lighting needs by 40%, and overall consumption is monitored digitally to review and make adjustments as needed.

Residential: LivingHomes

08_LivingHome_ExteriorWhen Mayor Garcetti makes strong declarations about Los Angeles’s position as a future leader in sustainability, he’s on solid footing. LA is filled with people who’ve been at the vanguard of the movement for years.  For example, LA-based green homebuilders LivingHomes constructed the first ever home to be awarded a LEED Platinum certification from the USGBC. The home was noted especially for the calculation that it would achieve 80% greater energy efficiency than standard, similarly sized homes, and that it was produced using 75% less waste during construction. And they have, if anything, only accelerated their efforts from there. Today, LivingHomes works with renowned architectural and design teams to build residences that can happily claim zero energy, zero water, zero waste, zero carbon, and zero emissions.

Person of Interest: Matt Petersen

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Eric Garcetti’s Los Angeles mayorship has been an ambitiously eco-conscious one. He has been outspokenly vocal regarding his goals for bringing down citywide energy consumption across all departments and ushering in tens of thousands of new green jobs. And to hit targets such as these, the aim of the archer must be of outstanding repute. This is why Garcetti has recently announced his appointing of Matt Petersen to the position of Los Angeles Chief Sustainability Officer. The position is a new one created by Garcetti specifically for Petersen, which in itself speaks to the quality of Peterson’s pedigree.

Petersen’s first push as a known name into the world of sustainability was as CEO of nonprofit Global Green USA. It was there that he developed marketing strategies for energy-efficient cars and solar power and led campaigns to combat climate change by spearheading projects involving the greening of schools, public housing, and city buildings. In 2008, he was recognized by TIME Magazine for his leadership role working with Global Green USA on aiding the recover of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. As Los Angeles’s first Chief Sustainability Officer, Petersen will work to increase use of recycled water and solar power, upgrade their oft-overlooked public transportation system, create a plethora of new green jobs, and encourage LA residents to participate in the efforts make LA as green as it is great.

Neighborhood: Playa Vista

10_Playa_Vista_ResidentialOn the lower Westside of Los Angeles, less than 15 minutes away from LAX, there rests the land where one Howard Hughes retreated in reclusive fashion from the insincerities of Hollywood, toiling over aerospace machinery at his Hughes Aircraft Company. Since long gone,  Playa Vista now occupies the property—a planned urban community that is close-knit and dense, comprising of both commercial and residential vacancies, much of which is walkable with a groundswell of public parks.

10_Playa_Vista_CorpBldgThe inland utopia was designed with a concentrated focus on human and environmental health. In addition to the 19 neighborhood parks, Play Vista’s communal planning incorporated “two pools, a spa, fitness center, and outdoor event space” to encourage community residents to stay healthy and engaged while making the process easier and more inclusive.

One of the most recent Playa Vista developments is the succinctly titled “The Resort,” and it contains cabanas, designated adult and kiddie pools, and a state-of-the-art fitness center. Before the construction process even began, Playa Vista was awarded an EPA Energy Star based on the promising “trendsetting” qualities of their Sustainable Design Guidelines.  92% of the materials comprising the Hughes plant were recycled and put into construction developments, and it has maintained a 90% recycling rate since. While Playa Vista belongs to the city of Los Angeles, the example they set is sure to be noticed by metropolis brain trusts nationwide.

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“The Resort,” contains cabanas, designated adult and kiddie pools, an outdoor fireplace, and a state-of-the-art fitness center.