Inside the Greenest Building in California
Santa Monica is setting the bar high for sustainability at its new $57M, 50k SF City Services Building. Director of Santa Monica’s Public Works Department Martin Pastucha tells Bisnow the proposed building is registered for full Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), which is the world’s most rigorous sustainable-rating program. The city has hired a design-build team led by Hathaway Dinwiddie, which is working with Frederick Fisher Architects and Buro Happold Engineers for MEP and sustainability.
This building will set an example for sustainability, but that’s not its main purpose, Martin says. Connected to City Hall with a courtyard, it would bring City Services employees, who are now scattered around the city in leased space, under one roof, improving collaboration between departments and convenience for city residents. This would also save the city a bundle of money over the expected 50-year life span of the building, as leased office space currently costs the city $2M annually plus the cost of utilities. At today’s office rents, which according to a recent CBRE report average $61.68 PSF a year, the city would see payback for the building by 2034-2035, he says.
Santa Monica already requires a minimum LEED Platinum certification for new buildings, but the Living Building Challenge pushes sustainability to the next level. “These are buildings of the future, and we want to demonstrate to others what can be done,” Martin says. Full certification requires buildings to have a “restorative” impact on the environment. A building must demonstrate at least 105% net positive energy (NPE) and water performance for 12 continuous months before being awarded certification. Nationally, only seven buildings, none of which are in California, have attained this level of sustainability, so far.
International Living Future Institute's net zero energy (NZE) manager Brendan Cook tells us the first and most important step in achieving NZE and beyond is to reduce the building’s energy load using design, advanced technologies and operational strategies. Buro Happold Engineering is working with the city to reduce the energy loads for this project.
Santa Monica already is ahead of most cities in making the most of available water resources. The city collects and filters rainwater, recycles water from the Pico-Kenter storm drainage system for irrigation and flushing toilets, and has an on-site well with a filtration system that produces potable water. To achieve net positive water, the city will install water-saving fixtures, such as composting toilets that use a fraction of the water current low-flow toilets do, and convert waste to compost suitable for landscaping plants.