Decoding Design

Commercial buildings the focus of new climate initiative

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A new program introduced by the city of Los Angeles, the Clinton Climate Initiative and C40 Cities aims to help commercial buildings become more energy efficient.

LOS ANGELES -- Many cities, as well as private citizens, are making small leaps to reduce energy consumption. What many overlook, or are too under-funded to take on, are large commercial buildings- arguably the largest drainer of resources in urban areas.

Los Angeles is attempting to tackle this problem. Along with the Clinton Climate Initiative and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Mayor Villaraigosa announced Wednesday that the city is launching the LA Commercial Building Performance Partnership.

The project seeks to reach 20 to 30 million more square feet of LA's commercial structures, that make up a staggering 57% of the LA's energy consumption.

This "first-of-its-kind program in the country" was created with the goals of conserving both energy and money while spurring job growth. Its designers also hope a public project like this will entice private donations.

The project is funded in part by the Federal Recovery Act, and responds to a nation-wide call for governments to help building owners make their property more efficient. The project is also linked with Energy Upgrade California, a state-wide initiative to update existing buildings.

Part of the Partnership plans to give owners and tenants access to free energy assessments as well as good financing on the cost of the building upgrades.

So what are these "upgrades," exactly? Renovations can range from something as small as lighting and refrigerator improvements to larger improvements like technology that controls and monitors water and energy use.

A figure cited in the press release stated that the program is estimated to create approximately 7,700 jobs per $1 billion of investment.

The release also noted that if every commercially-focused building in LA County put one dollar per square foot into into renovation for energy efficiency, it could potentially lead to the creation of 10,000 additional jobs.

When completed, the Partnership program is projected to reduce CO2 emissions by over 40,000 tons and save the city government approximately $10 million a year in energy expenses.

“I am proud that my Foundation, through the Clinton Climate Initiative, is a part of the LA Commercial Building Performance Partnership,” remarked former President Clinton in a statement released. “CCI has worked on more than 400 energy-saving building retrofit projects around the world, and one of the biggest challenges for projects is financing. I am excited that Los Angeles is finding new ways to finance this work. This is a great way to get Americans back to work.”

Energy assessments encompassing more than 12 million square feet of commercial building space are already underway, but this is just the next step in the city's march toward improved efficiency.

Photo: The Clinton Climate Initiative

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Beth Carter

Contributing Editor

Beth Carter is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has worked for Catalyst magazine, the New York Times Syndicate, BBC Travel and Wired. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure