Blog: February, 2011

February 14, 2011
Alliance News California Sustainability Alliance

The California Sustainability Alliance is excited to announce the launch of our redesigned website! After 3 years, it was time to update our look and content. Our new website layout will enable us to offer more dynamic content on the homepage, including multimedia and the latest information from our blog and Twitter feed.

We hope that you will join our social media conversation by commenting on our blog posts, “retweeting” our content, and letting us know what topics you’d like to hear about! 

The goal of this website redesign is to make the Alliance’s website as user-friendly, timely, and informative as possible. The website’s navigation has been enhanced to draw attention to our most frequently used tools and information.

The new homepage also highlights the many advisors that contribute to the California Sustainability Alliance. Our experts in green building, sustainable communities, and water-energy provide valuable guidance and technical expertise, without which the Alliance would be unable to offer the tools and resources that it does.

Let us know what you think of the new look! 

February 7, 2011
Built Environment energy efficiency, green building Nigel Hughes

With the new year well underway, now is a great time to review the state of green building in California. The good news is that California is closing in on the important “50% of Class A office space being green” mark. The not-so-good news is that there is still a long way to go in order to improve the sustainability of Class B and C office buildings.

As of November 2010, 48% of Class A office space in California was certified green (i.e., EnergySTAR® and/or LEED certified—equating to approximately 100 million square feet of office space, and a nearly 100% increase from the 26% of Class A office space that was certified green when we introduced our barometers in October 2008.

Unfortunately, the adoption of green building practices for Class B and C office buildings is markedly lower, at least in terms of such practices being recognized through certification. As of November 2010, 7.4% of Class B office space was certified green as compared to just 2.7% in 2008. Similarly, green Class C space has more than tripled from 0.2% in 2008 to its current level of 0.8% . However, despite this growth, the green base still remains small, and more needs to be done to promote the type of initiatives that allow lower-class buildings to earn green certification.

Differences between Class A, B & C office buildings are due to multiple factors including:

  • Many Class A buildings are built to higher specifications, with advanced levels of design and systems that are inherently more energy efficient
  • Potential lessees of Class A space are more frequently looking for green space
  • Class A space owners and property managers have better access to capital for investments
  • Ownership of many Class B and C buildings is generally split among many investors
  • Investors in Class B and C buildings typically have shorter investment time horizons
  • Finally, for higher-end buildings, the reductions in utility costs resulting from green improvements are more likely to make a significant impact on building operating expenses.

Looking back, it is rewarding to see significant increases in the proportion of certified green space occurring during a time period with historically high vacancy rates and a severe economic recession. With the economic situation improving, we can now look forward to many further advances in the greening of commercial buildings.

February 2, 2011
Water Energy energy efficiency, water efficiency, water energy Amul Sathe
Ocean friendly gardens are a more sustainable gardening practice reducing outdoor water use.

Approximately half of all residential water use in California is for outdoor purposes—and, of that, the majority is used for watering lawns and gardens.  In total approximately 1,300,000 acre feet of water is used for watering lawns and gardens; enough to cover the entire County of Los Angeles with six inches of water.  Producing, transporting, treating and delivering that water requires a significant amount of energy.  In a state that had below-normal precipitation in 8 of the last 10 years (including a 3-year drought), can using such significant amounts of water (and related energy) in this manner be considered sustainable?

New technologies and approaches allow for greater efficiency of outdoor irrigation.  Options range from high efficiency nozzle replacements on sprinklers to weather sensing irrigation controllers.   Meanwhile, some have suggested outright replacement of grass with synthetic turf.  However, one option stands out for not only reducing water use but also adding to the property values of California homes, while at the same time reducing ocean pollution: ocean friendly gardens (sometimes referred to as xeriscaping).

Ocean friendly gardens utilize drought resistant California native plants in plots that are designed to capture home stormwater runoff.  They require little, if any, irrigation.  Water is supplied to the gardens by rerouting downspouts that would normally send rainwater to the streets or sewer systems—water that would otherwise wash pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and oil into California’s rivers and ultimately pollute our oceans and beaches.  Ocean friendly gardens are specially designed to retain the influx of storm water and achieve near-zero runoff.  Contours and dry creek beds built into the landscapes retain water, allowing it to percolate into the ground.

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