Nature Center
San Elijo Nature Center

San Diego County strives to create a sustainable community by undertaking projects that include sustainable best-practices, programs and policies. These projects demonstrate the County's commitment and leadership to best practices that will decrease their energy and water usage while educating the community about sustainable practices.

To learn more about these innovative projects and practices click on the tabs below.

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Hilton Head  Park
Children playing at the Hilton Head Aquatic Park
Hilton Head Aquatic Park

Hilton Head County Park is a 10-acre community park located in Rancho San Diego. The park is filled with nautical spray features and showcases a concrete pad with etched images of dolphins and whales playfully swimming alongside a pirate ship. Imagination, play value, public health and safety were large factors and considerations integrated into the development of this aquatic park; however, the main consideration and design objective of the park was to build a model for water conservation and energy efficiency.

The aquatic playground uses activators and controllers that run on a 7 minute sequence when a child hits the activator. This means that the playground is only operational when children are actually playing in the water and continuously running around. This reduces water evaporation, power usage and unused water drainage into the water treatment system.

The Park also uses a Waterplay 200 gallons per minute (GPM) treatment system that was selected for the aquatic playground because it significantly reduces spray park water consumption while maintaining safety to public health through a process of filtration and disinfection. This new innovative recirculating water treatment system provides broad-spectrum, bacteria-killing chlorinated and ultraviolet disinfection.

Nature Center
San Elijo Nature Center
San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center

San Elijo Lagoon is one of the few remaining coastal wetlands in San Diego County and home to an exceptional number of plants and animals. A walk along the five miles of trails will take visitors through five plant communities, where they will encounter many of the 300 plus species of plants, 16 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 26 species of mammals. The lagoon is especially known for its bird life. At least 300 species have been seen here, 76 of which are classified as sensitive.

The LEED® Platinum Nature Center is located next to the trails in the reserve. The Nature Center is a 5,525 square foot, two story building that presents a unique opportunity for the public to see a number of green building concepts in use. The Nature Center was designed and constructed with a focus on the environment through energy efficiency, water conservation, and natural resource preservation. Many “green” technologies have been incorporated into the design, construction, and operations of the building including a solar powered photovoltaic system mounted on the roof, an energy-efficient radiant heat system encapsulated in the floors, water conserving toilets, energy conserving appliances, a green roof, and the use of recycled water in toilets and landscape irrigation. In addition, construction materials used throughout the building contain a high content of recycled material.

Medical Center
New Medical Examiner and Forensic Center
Medical Examiner and Forensic Center

The County of San Diego Medical Examiner & Forensic Center is an 84,000-square-foot facility that incorporates sustainable design with state-of-the-art technology in a setting designed to maximize workflow and enhance the intricate science that take place within its walls. The facility includes a Bereavement Center, expanded toxicology lab, teaching classroom and electronic touch screens at exam stations to better manage cases. The facility is recognized as the most advanced of its kind in North America.

The Medical Examiner & Forensic Center is part of a campus with high public visibility. The project shows how green elements, including high-energy efficiency, can be incorporated into a specialized building. This facility minimized demolition and construction waste to the landfill, uses less water, discharges less wastewater, reduces contaminated stormwater, reduces electricity consumption and peak electrical demand, reduces the local heat island effect, decreases light pollution, decreased air pollution by using regionally produced materials and equipment (where feasible).

Green Features related to the building include:

  • Energy usage at 33 percent below CA Title 24 mandatory energy efficiency standards
  • Chilled water from an all-variable speed central plant with Hartman Loop control logic
  • Office and Lab areas with variable air volume systems
  • Control and monitoring of outside air delivery
  • 75 percent of the space with day-lighting and view of exterior
  • Lighting Power Density (W/SF) 14 percent better than Title 24 mandatory energy efficiency standards
  • Water use at least 30 percent below industry standards (LEED)
  • High-performance windows
  • High-reflectivity roof
  • Accessibility to public transportation and cyclist-friendly
permit approval
North County Regional Center's ultra-efficient all-variable speed chiller plant
North County Regional Center

The North County Regional Center (NCRC), located in the City of Vista, is a multi-structure facility built in various phases over the past 30 years. The facility, encompassing 590,000 square feet, is primarily comprised of a detention area, administrative offices, courtrooms, general office space and equipment and maintenance areas. The detention areas and Sheriffs’ administrative offices operate 24 hours per day and 365 days per year.

Major energy-related projects at NCRC reduced utility costs by 14% and save 697 metric tons annually.  These projects, which were funded in part by San Diego Gas & Electric's Energy Savings Bid Program, include:

  • The 1,725-ton chiller plant was retrofitted with variable frequency drives on all three centrifugal chillers, all cooling tower fans, all primary and secondary chilled water pumps and all condenser pumps. The Hartman LOOP control sequence was programmed into the energy management system and used to control the all-variable speed chilled water plant. These improvements resulted in an annual energy reduction of 45 percent (1,260,000 kWh/Yr).
  • A 100 kW roof-mounted photovoltaic system was installed for on-site electricity generation (155,000 kWh/Yr). Both the all-variable speed central plant upgrade and the photovoltaic system were financed through a California Energy Commission low interest loan.
  • New Terminal Regulated Air Volume (TRAV) technology for air handling units AHU-1 thru 5 resulting in a two year simple payback (280,000 kWh/Yr and 7,400 Therms/Yr)
  • Implemented a Demand Control Ventilation sequence for air handling units AHU-1 thru 5 resulting in a 2.5 year simple payback (57,000 kWh/Yr and 7,000 Therms/Yr)
  • Instituted commissioning & monitoring services to ensure savings from the investment in energy efficiency projects and services.


Peter Livingston, Energy Program Manager, Department of General Services San Diego, discusses how the County is working with internal departments while partnering with local organizations and utilities to maximize the adoption of sustainability best practices while creating a strong sustainable community.