GRAND AVENUE PLAN ISN'T GREEN ENOUGH.
I found the unveiling of architect Frank Gehry's designs for the Grand Avenue development exciting, bold and encouraging. The core of our city would have a true center that helps define our sprawling metropolis.
Yet there was a gaping hole in the plan: There are no green building standards. The lack of any green building and broader commitment to environmental sustainability in the plan is a missed opportunity
The city of Los Angeles was one of the first cities in the nation to pass a municipal green building policy, requiring all new construction to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certified national voluntary standard that defines high performance green buildings, and strives for a LEED Silver rating with 10 percent of energy needs met on site through solar and other clean distributed generation technologies.
The Los Angeles Community College District, for example, embraced LEED Silver for many of its 50 new buildings on nine campuses, a total of $3 billion in new construction. The Los Angeles Unified School District has embraced another green standard for schools, ensuring the $14 billion in new school construction will result in classrooms with healthier indoor air quality and schools with lower energy bills for decades to come.
The Grand Avenue development should do the same.
Why green building? Green buildings increase productivity, performance and profits. The indoor climate is healthier. For schools, studies prove that students score higher on tests and attendance goes up when they're in healthier classrooms.
Green buildings address climate change. More than 40 percent of the world's energy and resources go into the design, construction and maintenance of buildings. About one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions come from the electricity used in buildings.
In a state where we recently experienced an electricity crisis, why doesn't the design help meet much of the energy needs on site, at least those that can help reduce peak demand and meet emergency power needs? Why not accentuate the opportunities for harvesting the power of the sun, a free feedstock for energy, for all the buildings on site? Why no indication in the plan for capturing rainwater and storm runoff on site? Why no attempt in the design to capture and use the wind blowing between or past them to create energy?
What if the buildings and land all shared services, like energy, with one building producing power from solar and fuel cells that is shared with other buildings to reduce peak demand?
To fill this hole in the Grand Avenue design, the county of Los Angeles should pass a green building policy requiring that all buildings on county land and/or built with county funds meet LEED standards. And the Grand Avenue Committee should add environmental sustainability to its core criteria in shaping the final design of the buildings. Otherwise, this is not just a lost opportunity; it's an opportunity cost that puts a great burden on future residents, occupants and tenants.