Blog: green building

December 29, 2014
Green Buildings - benchmarking, energy efficiency, green building, real estate resources, water efficiency

The California Sustainability Alliance is proud to announce an industry report which summarizes the outcome of the Existing Buildings Think Tank Roundtable held in partnership with the USGBC-LA Existing Buildings Committee. Over 70 participants representing building owners and managers, engineers, utilities, government, trade associations, and other industry professionals were in attendance to discuss ideas and emerging trends related to the operation and performance of existing buildings. The Alliance is managed by Navigant Energy Services and funded by Southern California Gas.

The Think Tank Roundtable is an annual, half-day event hosted by the USGBC-LA Existing Buildings Committee and chapter strategic partners typically focusing on Class A buildings. This year, the Alliance sponsored an expanded scope of the meeting to include an afternoon session for Class B and C building owners. The purpose of the Think Tank Roundtable is to share best practices, lessons learned, resources, challenges, and opportunities around topics relevant to owners and managers of Class A, B & C buildings as well as tenants, brokers, government, and building professionals from all sectors. Two industry reports (one for Class A owners and one for Class B and C owners) were produced as a result of the Think Tank event and follow-up interviews with key stakeholders.

Green and energy-efficient buildings demand higher rent, increase tenant productivity, reduce operating costs, and have higher occupancy rates. The upfront cost of green building improvements is a deterrent commonly cited by building owners. However, data show that green retrofits and increased energy and water efficiency increase property values and many upgrades can deliver attractive, short-term returns. During the meeting, industry leaders from the Greater Los Angeles area identified best practices, new opportunities, and existing resources in multiple topic areas to help Class B and C building owners and managers take charge of their building performance. The report summarizes industry leaders’ discussion of these topics:

  • Building Codes and Standards
  • Energy Efficiency and Energy Management Plans
  • Water Efficiency Opportunities
  • Financing Green Retrofits
  • New Building Technologies
  • Building Sustainability Trends
  • Climate Change
  • Other Industry Updates

The recently released reports highlight key outcomes of the roundtable discussions and integrate feedback from additional stakeholders during the months following the event. The findings and objectives of the reports are to:

  • Help utilities understand how to improve their regulatory and incentive programs by providing feedback about how they can best serve these critical yet often under-represented customers.
  • Encourage owners and managers of Class A, B and C properties to improve portfolio-wide energy and water efficiency and implement green building practices.
  • Inspire action to deepen environmental goals in the existing building sector by defining critical challenges and potential solutions, and by inviting key stakeholders to engage in the discussion.
  • Provide resources and education to service providers that are in a position to help building owners design and implement energy and water conservation strategies.

View the full reports here:

Video interviews from multiple experts at the event were also produced.

April 23, 2013
- built environment climate, climate change, commissioning, energy efficiency, federal action on climate change, GHG emissions, global action on climate change, global warming, green building, green local government, municipal facilities, RCx, real estate resources, retrocommissioning

As part of its efforts to help local governments comply with federal and state retrocommissioning codes and policies, the California Sustainability Alliance (Alliance) has developed a Retrocommissioning Program Toolkit specifically for municipal facility use.

Retrocommissioning (RCx) is a method of systematically examining the operation and maintenance of an existing building’s systems in order to identify ways to improve overall building performance. It offers a relatively quick and low-cost way to help building owners ensure that energy efficiency features and equipment specified in the building design are installed and operating as intended - and as required to meet occupants’ needs. 

The Alliance created its RCx Program Toolkit to help local government staff develop and implement a municipal facility retrocommissioning program.  The RCx Toolkit complements existing portfolio management tools and utility management systems, helping the user take the “next step” once a decision has been made to incorporate retrocommissioning into municipal facility standard operating procedures.  Although focused on the performance testing and documentation components, the Toolkit also provides resources, such as model commissioning specifications, to facilitate the entire commissioning process.

In addition to a detailed step-by-step description of the RCx program development processes of planning and preparation, creating data infrastructure, and collecting baseline data, the Toolkit includes necessary tools and resources to implement the program such as:

  • Sample RCx Action Plan;
  • References to common RCx resources and procedures;
  • Model Request for Proposals (RFP) language;
  • The RCx Dashboard, a spreadsheet tool that allows the user to enter basic building information to identify potential RCx candidates and track RCx program accomplishments.

The RCx Toolkit is designed to be flexible enough to be a complementary resource for an energy manager in a large local government or to be the sole RCx Program management tool for facility and public works staff in smaller jurisdictions.  It may be used to facilitate RCx for an entire portfolio of buildings, or for a defined sub-group, such as all fire stations or libraries.  Alternatively, a subset of the Toolkit’s procedures can serve to guide local government staff through retrocommissioning those measures for which that team is responsible, or to provide to its maintenance contractor. 

Depending on a government’s specific situation, the RCx Dashboard can aid in prioritizing buildings and identifying RCx candidates.  Data or analyses from other tools such as the EPA’s Portfolio Manager or a utility management system also function to prioritize the buildings, in which case, the Toolkit can work as a complementary resource library and tracking tool.  For example, for planning a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system replacement, the Toolkit includes sample retrocommissioning RFP language to ensure the HVAC contractor performs functional tests and provides the required documentation to the project team.  For projects completed by internal staff, such as lighting replacements, the Toolkit’s RCx functional tests can be used to document proper installation and operation of the newly installed lighting system. 

October 16, 2012
Built Environment - green building, green business
Green Office Building

As it happens, “greening” your business could mean a boost for the environment as well as your company’s bottom line. There is now empirical evidence showing the adoption of sustainable policies, including environmental management and product standards, increases employee productivity, creating real and positive impacts on a company.

In the past decade, studies have shown that the improved lighting, ventilation, and general environment of Energy Star and LEED certified buildings lead to a decrease in employee sick days and an increase in perceived productivity, and thereby, economic benefits. A recent study by UCLA professor Magali Delmas and University of Paris-Dauphine’s Sanja Pekovic delves a little deeper and is the first to demonstrate how a company’s environmental commitment affects its productivity. The study, Environmental standards and labor productivity: Understanding the mechanisms that sustain sustainability, was published this September in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. Check it out here.

The findings are surprisingly clear: employee productivity is 16% higher at companies that adopt environmental practices. “Green” companies include those that follow international standards and adopt eco-labels such as “fair trade” and “organic.”

The robust jump in productivity can be attributed to a “virtuous cycle.” As described by Delmas, companies attract top people, then adopt environmental practices, and in turn, attract even better people. Patagonia is a prime example of the cyclical improvement of sustainably-minded companies. It has seen widespread success in the outdoor adventure retail space, is applauded for its longstanding sustainability efforts, and attracts an average of 900 applicants for each open position. After adopting a range of sustainability measures, a boutique hotel in Santa Monica, CA, also saw improved employee health and happiness.

Green companies create motivated employees who receive more training and improved interpersonal relationships. The result is increased employee productivity over conventional firms. Management will hopefully take note of the success of such companies and studies that consistently reveal the economic benefits of sustainability initiatives. As Delmas attests, “Adopting green practices isn’t just good for the environment. It’s good for your employees and it’s good for your bottom line.”  

March 13, 2012
Alliance News - green building

The Alliance has released the Green Tenant Guide to assist organizations through the process of greening their operations and staff behavior.The Guide incorporates content based on best practice research and is built on the belief that a sustainability program should be treated like any other venture an organization undertakes; it should make business sense, be measurable, and fit within the organization’s overall mission.  This guide recognizes that every organization’s situation is different and it will help organizations discover what makes the most sense for their situation and their audience in order to do the following:

  • Set clear and feasible sustainability goals
  • Establish buy-in and excitement
  • Define metrics
  • Communicate results

The Green Tenant Guide includes a step-by-step approach, specific strategies for greening a workplace, a sustainability program process checklist and a smart goal setting worksheet.To view or download the Green Tenant Guide click here

February 23, 2012
Built Environment - green building
To better engage tenants, the facility manager should use charts to display energy patterns and cost savings.

A recent article published on Property Management Software Guide claims occupant behavior – not funding or awareness – is preventing green buildings from reaching their environmental performance goals.  The article, Occupant Behavior: Five Keys to Meeting Environmental Performance Goals, identifies five ways to encourage behaviors that align with environmental performance goals:

  1. Engage occupants before they move in.  Hold an eco-charrette with the future tenants to include their ideas about the building’s design and help them understand the importance of established performance goals.
  2. Take a holistic approach.  It may not be enough to focus solely on energy and water usage. Holistic programs emphasizing sustainability and overall health and well-being have proven to be very successful.
  3. Measure energy use with new technologies.  New social energy management tools can assist in making tenants more aware of their energy use by showing the real-time environmental performance of the building.
  4. Provoke competition.  Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be leveraged to create friendly competition among occupants, floors, or even other local buildings. By setting clear goals and displaying real-time data, facility managers can capitalize on tenants’ competitive spirit in order to reduce a building’s carbon footprint.
  5. Create transparency.  It is important to make energy data available in a way that it is easily understood.  Providing tenants with easy-to-read charts or graphs showing energy usage patterns, data on actual cost savings and shrinking carbon footprints, helps facility managers better engage their tenants.

Ashley Halligan is the author of Occupant Behavior: Five Keys to Meeting Environmental Performance Goals. Ashley is a Property Management Systems Analyst at Software Advice.