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LA City Uses Control of Building Codes to Reduce Climate Change

Los Angeles tightens building codes for large projects to reduce climate impact

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Los Angeles 2007 Green Building Program

In Nov., 2007 The Los Angeles Planning Commission approved one of the most ambitious green building programs of any big city in the nation. The measure is expected to come before the City Council early next year.

New Developments to be 15% More Energy Efficient

The plan requires large new developments to be 15% more energy efficient. The new rules also restrict water use, all intended to cut the city's emissions of greenhouse gases.

Cities have no power over vehicle tailpipe emissions, which are ultimately controlled by the federal government.

And power plants, another major source of greenhouse gases, are mostly regulated by state government, except in the case of cities that own utilities, such as Los Angeles.

Municipalities CAN Control Building...and Mayors Lead the Global Warming Battle

So building, which local government can regulate, is key to the efforts of mayors nationwide who have pledged to meet the targets of the Kyoto Protocol to limit global warming.

Mayor Villaraigosa has pledged to lower the city's greenhouse emissions 35% below 1990 levels by 2030. Statewide, California's landmark 2006 global warming law mandates a cut in carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Los Angeles: 50 units or 50,000 SF of Floor Area

Under the L.A. rules, new buildings with more than 50 units or 50,000 square feet of floor area would be required to meet national LEED standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The city receives about 200 permit requests for large residential, commercial and industrial buildings each year, amounting to about 9% of new construction in Los Angeles.

Nationwide, construction is the biggest manufacturing industry. Buildings account for 39% of U.S. energy use, 70% of electricity consumption and 12% of potable water use.

Tougher Measures Coming

Planning Commission President Jane Ellison Usher said the program is a first step toward greening the city's buildings, and that in the coming months even tougher measures will be recommended, including certification to ensure that new buildings achieve the promised savings.

The city will establish a "green team" of experts from various departments -- including Planning, Building and Safety, and Water and Power -- to improve the environmental impact of the basic code for all buildings, including single-family homes and small commercial developments.

Green Building Recommendations

The first recommended measures include
  • Wiring buildings for solar-energy systems
  • Using high-efficiency heating and air conditioning units
  • Installing toilets and shower heads that use less water
  • Half of demolition and construction waste will have to be recycled
  • Low-irrigation landscaping would be mandated for lots greater than 1,000 square feet.

Expedited Permits Can Save Two Months a Year

Developers who submit projects to USGBC for silver certification will qualify for expedited permits that could save builders from two months to a year.

In Southern California, Pasadena and West Hollywood have passed stricter rules than those proposed in L.A.

25 Cities Require LEED Certification for Public Buildings

More than 25 cities nationwide already require LEED certification for publicly funded buildings, such as fire stations, schools and libraries. In Los Angeles, which embraced green building for municipal projects in 2002, 48 buildings have been designed to LEED standards.

The Los Angeles Community College District has 44 LEED-certified buildings under construction or in design.

Private Developers Use LEED as Differentiation

Private developers have begun to accept LEED certification as a way to distinguish their buildings for buyers who are increasingly concerned about the environment. More than 50 private buildings in Los Angeles are being designed or constructed to LEED standards.

L.A. City Council Chairman Eric Garcetti, is ad advocate for green building and actions. "In L.A. we have experienced the long-term costs of living cheap in the short term: Landfills at the top of capacity, air which is unbreathable and water which is undrinkable.

By Margot Roosevelt
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 16, 2007 12:00 AM

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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