Demand for Sustainable Buildings, Products Grows in Southern California
By Chris Sieroty|November 12, 2007 at 09:22 AM
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Chris Sieroty is a contributor to Real Estate Southern California, from which this article was excerpted.Sustainable building and design have gone mainstream in Southern California. What was once the domain of public entities using state and federal funding, sustainable or green building is now being used by developers of office space as a way to set themselves apart in a crowded market.Developers and building owners are also building green office space that offers environmentally friendly features, such as low-emission carpets and motion sensors to regulate light use. Even buying eco-friendly desks, chairs, space dividers and other furniture is getting easier, according to an interior designer. Most of these products use fabrics made from recycled soda bottles or natural fibers like jute, hemp, cotton and wool.”A few years ago there were only a few select distributors offering eco-friendly office products,” says Winston Bao, an associate and LEED-certified interior designer with LPA in Irvine. “Today, it’s mainstream. There are more companies to meet the demand for products.”Companies offer furniture made from sustainably harvested woods and recycled, bio-based, or non-toxic materials. These products are being made with glues, paints, foams and other ingredients that don’t give off noxious odors.Traditionally furniture making has been a problematic source of emissions. In terms of air pollution, traditional manufacturing creates emissions of volatile organic compounds from glues finishes and stains. VOC’s are a major contributor to indoor air pollution.More sustainable solutions include powder-based finishing coats, which not only are VOC-free, but require less energy and create less waste.In terms of sustainable furniture, Bao says consumers have to evaluate how it was made and what its core materials are. For example, is an eco-friendly desk made out of recycled steel? Does it use plastic laminate? Is it made in a factory that recycles its water, or is it made locally?Sustainable BuildingAn early example of sustainable building by the public sector was the Inland Empire Utilities Agency. Based in Chino, the municipal water district spent more than $10 million to build its green headquarters in 2003.The two buildings, which total 66,000 sf of office space, feature solar roof panels that produce 60,000 watts, enough electricity for half a building. Besides solar panels, the facility uses recycled water in its toilets and features motion-activated room lights.The agency’s environmentally friendly headquarters is about the size of 40 average homes in California, but uses the electricity of approximately three to four homes.A new office complex is being planned in Beverly Hills, where developer George Comfort & Sons has submitted an application to demolish an existing office building and replace it with an environmentally sustainable complex that would house the William Morris Agency.The proposed headquarters, at 231-265 N. Beverly Dr., would be the first U.S. LEED building built in the city. Robert Jernigan, principal and managing director of Santa Monica-based Gensler architects, the project’s designer, says that although the developer was very receptive to building a sustainable building, William Morris has actually mandated it.Jernigan, a LEED-accredited architect, says it was important for the William Morris Agency to be housed in a sustainable building as a matter of company policy and due to the fact that Jim Wiatt, its president and co-CEO, was on the board of the Natural Resources Defense Council.”There are three kinds of customers,” Jernigan explains. “One that has a long-term view and realizes the pay back in three to four years; a company that is very image-conscious and sees a competitive advantage to using sustainable building; [and] the third type is the company that doesn’t know what business is going to be like in three years and doesn’t want to discuss sustainable building.”In Pasadena, construction has begun on NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s first LEED-certified building. JPL’s Flight Projects Center has been designed to meet the LEED benchmarks for design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.The Flight Projects Center will host a variety of environmentally friendly features including Energy Star-rated appliances, a high-efficiency HVAC system, water conservation fixtures and an auditorium featuring a landscaped roof.The seven-story, 194,602-sf LEED certified building design includes an auditorium, fitness center, and 20 project suites featuring workstations, private offices, break areas, and copy and conference rooms.Sustainable features include:
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