Green Buildings

Multiyear Facility Planning

The passage of California Senate Bill (SB) 350, the adoption of a 10‐year rolling energy efficiency portfolio, and the increased difficulty of achieving cost‐effective energy savings through traditional utility programs are challenging utilities to develop approaches that provide deeper savings. Serving utility customers through a multiyear facility planning (MFP) approach can open new energy efficiency opportunities and help utilities achieve their energy efficiency goals.

Healthy Buildings - Case Study

There is a significant new trend in the world of green buildings – wellness. Through a case study, the Alliance engaged with stakeholders responsible for the recent renovation of the Gates-Thomas building at Caltech. This project clearly showed occupant wellness as a value proposition that engaged all stakeholders around a central ideal.

MGBCE – Zero Net Energy as an Agent of Change

Zero Net Energy (ZNE) has emerged as the gold standard of sustainable and integrated building design. The Alliance presented on this vision of the future at the 2016 Municipal Green Building conference and Expo. California has set aggressive ZNE targets for both residential and commercial buildings. As ZNE becomes the norm, corporate, energy, and policy discussions will drive building owners, community organizations, and other decision makers as they grapple with new challenges.

Building Behavior Change - MGBCE

Occupant wellness is an increasing concern in building design. The Alliance presented what this means and how the trend interacts with sustainability initiatives at the 2017 Municipal Green Building Conference and Expo. The World Green Building Council acknowledges that office design greatly impacts occupant health, wellbeing, and productivity. Now, just as sustainability efforts prompted certification systems, the WELL Building Institute seeks to provide a system for measuring the built environment’s impact on human health.

Greenbuild - Zero Net Energy as an Agent of Change

Zero Net Energy (ZNE) has emerged as the gold standard of sustainable and integrated building design, transitioning from an unattainable goal of energy-efficient design to a probable vision of the future. The Alliance took participants at the 2016 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo on a journey through time, to consider the future of the built environment as ZNE becomes the norm.

Passive Design Handbook

Existing building renovation offers an interesting challenge for implementing passive design solutions. While it often costs very little to incorporate passive design elements into a new building, it is more challenging and often more costly to incorporate these solutions into existing buildings. That being said, existing buildings offer the greatest opportunity for change.

Passive Design Potential Study Report

Passive design strategies are often overlooked in commercial facilities. In response, the Alliance sought to complete a technical feasibility study to quantify the potential for natural gas savings associated with passive design strategies in small commercial facilities located in Southern California. This study investigates and quantifies potential natural gas savings from passive design strategies in the four most predominant Southern California climate zones (Beach Cities, Downtown Los Angeles, Mountains, and Desert).

Green Building Toolkits

The California Sustainability Alliance has developed several toolkits and other resources that aid local governments in planning and implementing sustainable initiatives. These include:

  • Green Leases Toolkit
  • Energy Efficient Financing Calculator
  • Class B Office Improvement Toolkit

2015 Blueprint for Functional Sustainability


*The Blueprint for Functional Sustainability Competition has been postponed to the 2015 academic year. The Alliance will update this page and communicate with eligible schools when the 2015 competition timeline is set.


The 2015 Blueprint for Functional Sustainability Competition, sponsored by the California Sustainability Alliance (Alliance), provides an applied learning experience in the principles of sustainability, integrated design, and social responsibility. Tomorrow’s green designers are the students of today; this competition calls on these leaders to innovate and share their designs for projects that envision better occupant environments and raise the bar on green building and development.

Competition Objectives:

  • Broaden green building education within the California higher education system.
  • Broaden cross-discipline collaboration between future leaders of the green building movement.
  • Highlight the efforts and initiative of students and emerging leaders in the green building movement.
  • Encourage a thorough appreciation of human needs, economic impacts and social responsibilities.
  • Encourage a focus on energy efficiency; passive design; thermal comfort; water efficiency and waste reduction; regenerative design and occupant behavior in the building industry.
  • Further the understanding of Zero Net Energy buildings.
  • Recognize and award students for their dedication, creativity, innovation and commitment to sustainable design.

Competition Challenge:

Competition teams will consider an existing building within Los Angeles and recommend plans for renovation to meet high levels of sustainability. The Alliance Blueprint for Functional Sustainability Competition is envisioned slightly differently than a standard sustainability competition. Yes, the ultimate goal is to recommend a full gut-rehab plan that meets strict sustainability metrics. Success, however, will be defined through the development of a sustainability plan that allows the building to better meet the needs of the occupants. The occupant should be considered as the central benefactor of all decisions and decisions should be contingent on the benefit that they convey to the occupant. Benefits include improved indoor environmental quality and ease of use/interaction with building systems.

The competition teams will be asked to submit a PowerPoint presentation, framed as a pitch to the building owner. The pitch should address why the team’s design modifications and ideas should be incorporated in the building. It is important for teams to incorporate a basic business element to this pitch such as a financial budget, payback period, project schedule or other real-world applicability metrics and tests.

Design Goals/Evaluation Criteria:

Competition teams will be judged in reference to two separate sets of criteria. Content criteria, which describe the areas of sustainability to be addressed by each team, are most heavily weighted, with 21 points available. Process categories focus on the communication strategies and ability to meet competition guidelines. There are only 5 points available in the process categories. A full competition judging rubric will be available to teams on Monday, October 20th, when all competition documents are available to teams. Until that time and to support teams in identifying the correct individuals, a list of the topics covered within the content criteria are provided. Content criteria will include reference to the following topics.

  • Occupant Behavior: the occupant is, for the purpose of this competition, considered the primary influencer/benefactor of all design decisions. The team should consider the impact of human behavior on all design decisions. Human behavior can significantly drive or hinder savings in energy water and waste.
  • Regenerative Design: regenerative or restorative buildings are designed and operated to have a net-positive impact on the environment by repairing the surrounding environment. Regenerative buildings should help to create a better environment and enhance the qualities of existing ecosystems.
  • Real-World Functionality: design solutions must be grounded in reality and should attempt to meet real-world demands for both usefulness and cost-effectiveness. The human needs of the occupant and the business needs of the building owner should be taken into account in relation to all design decisions.
  • Zero Net Energy: for the purpose of this competition, Zero Net Energy is defined as a building where the amount of energy produced on-site is greater than or equal to the amount of energy consumed by the building on an annual basis.
  • Zero Net Water: Zero Net Water is defined as a building where all water requirements are met by rainwater collection or recycled water sources, with zero ‘first time’ freshwater use. Building wastewater must also be recycled and treated without toxic chemicals.
  • Waste Reduction: waste reduction pertains to the process of reducing the amount of both organic and non-organic waste produced by the building and its occupants. Waste reduction refers to both limiting the collection of waste producing materials, such as reducing packaging materials and sustainably disposing of any waste materials collected, such as through composting.
  • Alternative Sustainability: alternative sustainability measures include methods of increasing sustainability beyond the specific categories called out in the other judging criteria. Topics covered in alternative sustainability could include choosing sustainable materials, reducing carbon footprint, reducing transportation needs of building occupants or any other areas of specific interest to the project team.

Competition Schedule:

The Alliance will update this webpage and communicate with eligible schools when the 2015 competition timeline is set.

Hosted By:

The California Sustainability Alliance, funded by Southern California Gas.

Class B Building Energy Efficiency Financing Calculator

Building owners interested in pursuing financing for their energy efficiency project will benefit from this new tool developed by the California Sustainability Alliance.  With the goal of bridging the gap between engineering analysis and financial reporting, the Alliance has developed an easy to use Energy Efficiency Financing Calculator which allows the user to input project data after completing an on-site audit. The calculator will generate a cash flow analysis that compares the high, expected, and low energy savings scenarios, thereby capturing the performance risk of a project.  The Energy Efficiency Financing Calculator also develops financial reports that can be easily printed as supporting documentation for a loan application.  Download the EE Financing Calculator.