Contact Us

Q&A: San Diego Green Building Council Executive Director Josh Dean

It is a turbulent time for sustainable building practices and policies, with the federal government seemingly backing away from supporting sustainability — unless it isn't — and with state and local governments taking up some of the slack. 

San Diego Green Building Council Executive Director Josh Dean

But what can localities do to promote sustainable buildings? Quite a lot, according to San Diego Green Building Council Executive Director Josh Dean. 

Recently Bisnow spoke with Dean about the state of sustainable building in the region.

Bisnow: How does the San Diego region compare with others — in California or elsewhere — in the adoption of green building technologies and practices?

Dean: San Diego is on par with others in California and we are probably ahead of other parts of the country, thanks in part to the state building codes. Zero Net Energy goals, 100% renewable energy policies and education on the benefits of incorporating these practices are the major driving forces in shifting the construction market here toward sustainable features. 

Bisnow: What about water?

Dean: One area we could see a greater adoption is in water practices. Much has been done in the way of incorporating water-efficient fixtures, but there's a need to see more on-site water reuse technologies and practices to limit potable water consumption. 

Bisnow: Has all the low-hanging fruit been taken in terms of energy and water efficiency for buildings in the region?

Dean: I would have to say that’s a resounding no. With new construction, energy and water efficient systems are incorporated into each building with an ever-progressing building code. 

However, the bulk of the San Diego region’s commercial building stock is much older. It’s probably 35 to 40 years old on average and, according to some local studies, a large percentage is under 50K SF.


Bisnow: Why is that important?

Dean: Typically, facilities of this size and smaller don't have facility staff performing regular maintenance or energy- and water-efficiency upgrades. This leads to a great opportunity to target these buildings for retrofits.

Legislation, such as Assembly Bill 802 and the Benchmarking Ordinance the city of San Diego is looking to pass, will help these smaller buildings understand their energy usage and take advantage of low-hanging fruit options.

Also, facilities and businesses in this range can tap into programs like the San Diego Green Business Network or Regional GBN to help identify energy- and water-efficiency upgrades.

Bisnow: What are examples of cutting-edge green development in the region and why?

Dean: There are a few recent projects in the San Diego region that are using cutting-edge practices to meet high sustainability goals. One completed project is the Alpine Branch Library, which has achieved Zero Net Energy.

This facility focused on the building envelope to ensure the building was thermally sound, and it utilized LED lighting, variable refrigerant flow systems, and building controls to manage low-energy usage. 

Another project completing soon is the Makers Quarter Block D. This six-story office building, designed by BNIM, is pursuing Net Zero Energy by taking advantage of natural ventilation through sleek roll-up doors on each level.

The project is also using cutting-edge exterior shading devices that actively allow for a lot of natural daylight. This reduces the need for artificial interior lighting and reduces energy use.

Another exciting project is the Gensler San Diego Studio. This architecture firm’s new office in the old NBC building Downtown was designed with a major focus around health and wellness, while not dismissing energy efficiency.

By utilizing active design, lots of natural daylighting and mixed-mode natural ventilation tied into chilled beams and chilled sails, the project has drastically reduced energy usage and created a healthier space for its occupants.