According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the building industry accounts for approximately 38% of worldwide carbon emissions today. As policymakers place increased emphasis on sustainability, many of the world’s biggest companies are coming to see the considerable benefits that can bring to building owners, occupants, and the environment.
In terms of meeting global climate targets, it is vital for companies to start measuring the total carbon footprint of their real estate assets. As we move forward on the path to net zero, all parties in the construction value chain will need to work together to focus on whole life carbon emissions reductions.
Green buildings have a less detrimental impact on the environment by using less energy, water, and natural resources than traditional structures. In some cases, green buildings can actually create a positive footprint, increasing biodiversity and generating their own energy.
Sustainable building confers numerous financial benefits, lowering construction costs and decreasing utility bills. According to statistics from the European Commission, energy efficiency measures could save up to $444 billion globally, creating over 3.3 million jobs in America alone.
From Almaden Towers in San Jose to the Robert Redford Building in Santa Monica, this article explores a selection of the most innovative green buildings in California.
Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House
Recognized with platinum accreditation from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Family House provides the families of children receiving treatment at San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital with free accommodations. Designed with the needs of immune compromised children in mind, the development offers a healthy, supportive, and comforting residential environment filled with restorative living spaces.
Sustainable strategies integrated into the building’s design include continuous ventilation via an energy-efficient fresh air system that does not need cooling. Other features include stormwater management, as well as green roofs to provide insulation. From 2016 to 2017, Family House overperformed on expectations, with its actual energy use 22% less than that modeled during design.
Located in downtown Los Angeles, this ambitious development retains the historic charm of the original buildings, preserving their ornate architectural details. Beneath the surface, however, this sustainable facility incorporates the state-of-the-art features required to achieve platinum LEED status.
The oldest structure in south California to achieve such accreditation, PacMutual Campus is the result of a $25 million renovation orchestrated by Rising Realty Partners. Today, the campus offsets its energy demands with renewable energy credits, its indoor water usage 32% lower than the national baseline, earning the development a place in the 91st percentile for energy efficiency compared with similar buildings.
Almaden Tower is owned and operated by Adobe Systems, a multinational corporation that has invested millions in making the leap to sustainability, implementing numerous projects centering on conservation and protecting the environment.
Over the last 20 years, Adobe has reduced its overall water use by 22%, lowering reliance on natural gas by 41%, and electricity consumption by 35%. Platinum certified by the LEED, the Almaden Tower complex consists of three buildings: the 17-story Almaden Tower; 16-story East Tower; and 18-story West Tower. In line with Adobe’s plan to generate power at all of its facilities, the towers generate energy on-site through the installation of 20 upright wind turbines.
Dubbed “America’s greenest office building,” Almaden Towers serves as the software company’s global headquarters, the temperate climate of San Jose enabling it to run on up to 90% outside air, helping indoor air quality to consistently exceed American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards.
Water conservation strategies feature prominently in exterior landscaping design at Almaden Towers, which incorporates grassy areas and planter boxes featuring drought tolerant plant species. Pest control is carried out at the property without relying on toxic chemicals, and all janitorial products meet Green Seal Cleaning Products Standards.
Not only is the development environmentally friendly, but Almaden Towers presents significant costs savings too, saving Adobe $1.2 million annually, equating to a 121% ROI.
The Robert Redford National Resources Defense Council Building
It seems only fitting that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) headquarters should incorporate the latest green building innovations. The organization is nationally acclaimed for spearheading high-quality environmental design, with the Robert Redford Building representing its most ambitious project to date.
Located in urban Santa Monica, this 15,000-square-foot structure features offices and meeting rooms, as well as an Environmental Action Center. The building’s large operable windows and internal light wells deliver the majority of internal light, with photovoltaic panels meeting approximately 20% of the development’s total energy demands, making the NRDC headquarters one of the greenest buildings in America today.
With a platinum LEED rating, the Robert Redford Building boasts a variety of energy-saving features, including automatic lighting controls; an Energy Star rated roof coating; and optimum water efficiency through incorporation of subsurface irrigation, waterless urinals, and low-water fixtures.
The building was constructed using a wide range of renewable materials, including a carpet made from recycled nylon, and partitions constructed from recycled water bottles. In fact, more than 90% of the materials used to build the NRDC headquarters are recycled or recyclable.