City to look at going green

CITY HALL — Future development in Glendale could be forced down a greener path if the City Council on Tuesday moves forward with incorporating environmental standards into the city’s building codes.

City planners will seek direction from the council on how to develop the so-called “green” building standards that have so far remained relatively soft in Glendale compared with a host of other cities across the Southland.

In cities like Los Angeles, Pasadena and Long Beach, public and private buildings are required to meet some level of nationally recognized energy- and environmental-efficiency benchmarks.

“I think it’s a very important step that the city needs to take in order to lower our carbon footprint,” said Councilman Frank Quintero, who called for the report in February.

Planners will present the council with three options: promote existing energy-saving incentives, develop a city-specific set of guidelines, or co-opt national standards.

Quintero said he would push for the last in the form of green buildings codes established by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council. The system, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,, rates projects according to the number of points they garner for folding environmentally sensitive construction techniques and building features into a design.

Reduced water usage, access to public transportation, reuse of an existing building, efficient cooling systems and solar panels are some of the categories in which buildings can score points and achieve varying levels of certification, bragging rights and, in many cities, financial incentives.

In exchange, the building’s impact to a city’s infrastructure is reduced, and the environment can breathe a little easier, city officials said.

Buildings alone account for 70% of electricity consumption in the United States, produce 39% of all carbon dioxide and consume close to 13% of all potable water, according to the building council.

A growing list of cities have tailored the council’s certification system, which can add between 2% and 5% to the total cost of a project, in different ways to meet the needs and appetite of their respective communities.

Los Angeles recently applied the “spirit” of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification system to private development after requiring the standards to be incorporated in all new public buildings since 2003, according to L.A. city planners.

West Hollywood uses its own incentive-based point system to promote green development.

“Once you say ‘green buildings,’ there’s so many different ways that’s defined,” said Alan Loomis, principal urban designer for Glendale.

But Glendale appears to already be leaning toward the standards set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council.

In December, the City Council approved the construction of Glendale’s first pair of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified public buildings. The new training and storage buildings at the Glendale Water & Power yard in the northwest San Fernando Road corridor will achieve the mid-level “silver” certification, according to city reports.

The green mandate contributed $1 million in costs to the $23-million project, but city officials said they expect to recoup that in less than eight years through reduced energy consumption and other systems built into the structures.

Developers of the modern, 24-story Verdugo Gardens residential tower downtown pledged to attain some level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification in February when it was approved. It would be the first major, private development in Glendale to be certified under the standards.

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to give city planners direction on how far to go with the standards, and whether the national set is appropriate for Glendale. Any formal list of proposed building codes could, depending on the council’s direction, take months to develop and review, Loomis said.

“We really see this as an introduction to the topic,” he said. “We just need to start the dialogue on this.”


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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