Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

San Diego Looks to Building Green to Cut Emissions, Energy Use

In response to growing greenhouse gas emissions, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law in 2006, the Global Warming Solutions Act. This law requires California's greenhouse gas emissions be reduced

In the routine of our average daily lives it's pretty hard to avoid the structure of a building. Whether you are going to work or shopping, buildings touch our lives, and they are everywhere. So much, that it's not surprising to see the great impact, and carbon footprint, buildings have on our environment. Tami Rogers and Joanne Faryon have the story.

In the United States alone, buildings account for: 65% of our electricity consumption, 36% of our energy use, 30% of our greenhouse gas emissions, 30% of our waste output, and 12% of our potable water consumption. This is a lot of consumption for the business industry, and businesses are taking notice.

As general manager of the Sun Harbor Marina , Mary Lou LoPreste completely rebuilt the marina's three structures from ground up.


LoPreste: As I became more aware of the global warming crisis and the world today and the depletion of our natural resources, I became aware of the fact that there are ways to build green and sustainability and responsibly. I jumped right on it.

A sustainable business challenges the building and its people to survive with little or no impact on the environment. Meeting the needs of the present, without compromising the livelihood of the future.

Getting a LEED certification, which stands for leadership in energy and environmental design, on your building is a comprehensive approach towards sustainability.

The Sun Harbor Marina is the only LEED certified marina in the world.

The LEED criteria is very very strict and very concise.


LoPreste: For water efficiency... we did things like provide waterless urinals, low flow toilets, we have motion activated faucets. Our washing machines are all energy star. We have very efficient irrigation, and we have tankless water heaters.

LoPreste: In choosing building materials for Sun Harbor Marina we chose rapidly renewable, sustainable and as natural products as we could find.

LoPreste: The different cabinetry is not only bamboo but a product called kiree, which is a byproduct of the sorghum plant.

LoPreste: We chose shower partitions that and bathroom partitions that are actually recycled plastic soda bottles.

LoPreste: We chose windows that are double paned and energy efficient, our paints are no VOC.

LoPreste: We also implemented half of our parking lot with light colored concrete and planted trees that have a shade canopy so that would greatly reduce the heat island effect.

LoPreste:  Sun Harbor Marina was able to achieve... a room that we call recreation/lead in room where we have in depth information on all the products that we use so people can see first hand through photographs and through material booklets what they can do themselves to make an energy efficient business.

In California, the commercial building sector is responsible for 48 percent of all energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions annually. Building green may be one of the best strategies to fight this, and in the future we may see new green building codes signed into law. Cities like San Francisco and Boston are already very close to passing these laws, and the city of San Diego now requires that new city projects achieve a LEED silver rating.

For business owners, the concern then becomes... how do you go green, without going into the red?

Sanders: I know that what we look for when we marry business with sustainability, when we marry business with the environment, are financially feasible ways to do this.

LoPreste: When I approached the rebuild of Sun Harbor Marina from a financial status and looking at the budget, I did notice that the incremental costs for building green are five to ten percent higher. However, the energy savings has far exceeded my projects and I know that five and ten percent will be taken care of in the first couple of years simply from the savings alone.

Other local businesses have also implemented sustainable buildings and energy efficient practices.

UCSD has a green campus program that takes on a very comprehensive attack in preserving the environment. The program includes everything from green building design and construction to offering commuting alternatives. The university's cogeneration facility supplies about 88% of the campus's electricity -which is a savings of about eight million dollars a year in utility costs. Several departments like the Scripps Institution of Oceanography are currently very active in providing new information to students and the world -relevant to global warming in their ongoing research.

UCSD scientists and engineers collaborated with architect Rob Quigley in designing the new San Diego Children's Museum . The harmony of their expertise with Rob's architectural team created a unique and innovative museum.

Quigley: The San Diego Children's Museum is a very unique entity. We found there's really nothing else like this in the country. This building embodies a level of sustainability that's as great as any building that we've been able to create. 

The museum utilizes environmentally friendly architectural and infra-structural practices, including building materials, photovoltaic panels and water saving devices among others. But, what sets the museum apart from other sustainable buildings is how it works with Quigley: The two principal systems (that achieve,) that help achieve sustainability for us are the natural day-lighting system. Most buildings use enormous amount of electricity for lighting. So we've done very simple systems where we are able to bring in north light into the galleries and into the admin area, so there's actually no need for electric light in those spaces during the day.

The second system is a natural cooling system and natural heating. So during the winter, the buildings designed to allow the low sun angles to heat the concrete walls. Those walls then emit heat back into the space. And then during the summer when it’s too hot we have a natural cooling system where we take outside air bring it across the garden there at the entry space in through windows that open automatically at the right time and the air then comes into the galleries. 

As it gets heated, it rises and then we have this idea of this cooling tower or solar chimney which acts as a natural fan really. As the air is heated in the chimney in the exterior of the building it acts to bring the hot air out of the galleries and to the outside.

In the gallery spaces because of these systems, there is actually no backup system. 

There's no mechanical furnace waiting to be activated in case it gets too cold and no air conditioning system waiting to be activated in case it's too hot. It's actually all done with the natural systems.

Having a creative architect can be key in developing a sustainable building. The U.S. Green Building Council as a general guideline also recommends: installing solar panels to increase the building's energy efficiency, using windows as a primary light source during the day, providing storage for employee bicycles, landscaping with plants that don't require irrigation, using wood types certified as sustainably harvested, and in construction incorporate already standing walls and recycle construction waste.

Quigley: Well I think there's a lot of business reasons to construct sustain-ably, for everybody. First of all it saves money....

You don't look at how much it costs to put in your fluorescent light bulb, which might be more that an incandescent light bulb, you think of how much money you would save over a five year period or ten year period. That's how businesses have to look at it and that's why sustainability is so important. But secondly, it's important at a much larger level in that part of being a good citizen, it's part of being a smart citizen.

LoPreste:  I would advise and encourage all businesses considering going green to absolutely proceed full tilt ahead. It's financially lucrative. It's beautiful. It's relatively easy to do today, and it's absolutely the right thing to do.