Innovation in Building Green with LACCD

30 Mar

Solar Panels on top of a parking structure at LACCD


$6 billion dollars to spend on building and they’re doing it green

I attended a U.S. Green Building Council-Inland Empire meeting at the Frontier Project (a green demonstration building at CVWD) in Rancho Cucamonga last Thursday night.  The guest speaker was an innovative out of the box thinker and doer named Larry H. Eisenberg, the executive director of Facilities Planning and Development for the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), the largest community college district in the nation.

Eisenberg begins by showing slides of early 1900’s New York, the buildings in the picture were narrow and had awnings, two green building strategies that are being used today to save energy, improve cross ventilation and bring in daylight.  Its interesting to note that in 1904 New York City passed a law that all vehicles in the City were required to be electric, because of a bothersome air quality problem.  Since then the advance of technology has made it possible to have bigger, fatter, hungrier and ultimately unhealthy buildings that are not sustainable in the long run.  But  “Yankee ingenuity is remarkable” and the new green buildings of today are becoming healthy living places that are saving operators money, helping employees be more productive and happier in their place of work and moving us towards being better stewards of the land we are passing to our sons and daughters.

Today LACCD is in the process of spending $6 billion dollars from bond measures on capital improvements.  Eisenberg is making it work to improve the campuses in a green, integrative and innovative way.  In fact he changed the carpet industry by requiring a bid for carpet to be the most sustainable carpet in the world, have a 30 year warranty and include maintenance equipment.  The bid came in at 50% below normal carpet costs (with the maintenance equipment), an $85 million dollar bid which required the carpet company to retrofit the factory to meet this new green standard.  It is now the most popular carpet on the market.

One of the key components of Eisenberg’s strategy is to use Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) which brings all players into the design process including those not usually involved at the design level.  These team members includes architects, engineers, contractors, sub-contractors, owners and suppliers.  This open book and partnered process creates shared savings and improves the ultimate design of the building.  One example of implementing IPD on a previous project of Eisenberg’s, the steel supplier saved the developer $1 million in steel by showing them how to use the steel in the most effective way.

Here are some highlights of LACCD’s green building program, visit the LACCD website for more detail:

  • There are 85 new LEED buildings in the works, 5 will be LEED Platinum (currently there are only 100 LEED Platinum buildings in the U.S.)
  • Actual building costs have come in 30-40% below the original estimate (mostly because of the economy)
  • LACCD will save over $16 million in electricity costs by 2014 by being off the grid
  • Their solar thermal program has proven to be 30% more effective than anticipated
  • By taking advantage of the various programs such as Federal energy tax credits (through public private partnerships), rapid depreciation, utility incentives, Green Tag sales and bulk procurement they are paying about 10 cents on the dollar for their renewable energy program
  • Through a Power Purchase Agreement program they have locked in a price of 13 cents a kilowatt, saving them almost 40% on electricity through that particular program (they hope to buy out of the program in the future)
  • Students are creating interactive project modeling, saving money in the design process and learning a skill that is in high demand

Eisenberg and his colleagues are using and exploring many  technologies and processes to make their district one of the most sustainable and with more green buildings than any other in the country.  They are exploring the use of geothermal to heat and cool buildings, wind turbines that only require a minute breeze to generate significant amounts of electricity, putting thin film solar arrays on existing buildings so they don’t have to retrofit to install heavy solar panels, testing new technologies in energy storage and taking advantage of natural principles in design (which incorporate such  techniques as green roofs, shading, thermal mass and natural ventilation) , just to name a few.  I encourage you to visit the website or better, visit the one of the colleges and see what they are doing first hand.  According to Eisenberg “We’re building better buildings, people are healthier and we’re saving the earth.”

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