The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the adoption of the Jordan Downs Urban Village Specific Plan on April 17th to redevelop over 100 acres of publicly owned land in the Southeast LA community of Watts!!
The Specific Plan codifies the community-based vision of an urban village- streamlining the development process, and allowing the distressed post-war bunker style housing that exists today to be rebuilt.
The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) hired LA City Planning staff to write the Specific Plan in consultation with Global Green USA to ensure that the Plan included national standards for green and sustainable development.
Global Green has been working to instill sustainability standards in the Specific Plan for the past three years, and is currently in the process of getting the Specific Plan certified under the first national rating system for neighborhood scale sustainability- LEED for Neighborhood Development.
With the adoption of the Jordan Downs Specific Plan and its LEED-ND certification, the HACLA and its development partners are committing to build quality affordable housing, retail opportunities, walkable streets, and public amenities such as a central park and new community center for current and future residents of Jordan Downs.
The HACLA’s effort is equally focused on the human capital component-making the project about building resident’s capacity as well as building a unique place. The redevelopment of Jordan Down will influence the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of the greater Watts and Southeast Los Angeles community which is why Global Green is proud to be partnering in the revitalization effort!
Leaky faucets. Classrooms that are too cold or too hot. Hundreds of pounds of food and thousands of gallons of milk thrown away. Inefficient and improperly designed lighting.
These poor conditions, and more, plague many of our public schools, driving up operating costs, damaging our environment, and making teachers less effective in education our children. Nationwide, it would cost $271 billion to clear up deferred maintenance and bring our schools back up to code; an equal amount would be required to make them resource- efficient and high performing learning environments, according to a recent report from the Center for Green Schools.
Problems of this magnitude often seem overwhelming, particularly when it comes to existing buildings. Each individual building is a complicated environment that changes over time as a result of interactions between it and those who use it and maintain it. Over the past several months, Jill DeCoursey, Lauren Fuhry, Walker Wells, and I have been delving deep into the conditions at schools in Los Angeles, trying to break down the assessment and upgrade potential of existing school buildings into manageable chunks with a tool that could be easily adopted at a large scale.
Here in California, scalable tools are in desperate need as state policymakers consider how to spend upwards of $550 million annually for school energy efficiency upgrades made available through Proposition 39 (passed last November).
Using the Operations Report Card (ORC), developed by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPs) in collaboration with Global Green USA, we’ve been walking around schools with scientific instruments to measure lighting and sound levels in classrooms and test indoor air quality, analyzing energy and water bills, and – fun, fun, fun – doing “dumpster dives” to get a handle on what’s going on in a school’s waste stream. We also send out surveys to teachers so that we can blend qualitative impressions with our quantitative data.
The data we’ve collected, sometimes using a smartphone app we developed, is being fed into the ORC software to give the school a 1 to 100 score in each of seven areas: energy, water, waste, thermal comfort, air quality, lighting, and acoustics. In addition to scores, the ORC report offers actionable suggestions for how the schools might alter their operations or pursue building upgrades. Schools that get a score of at least 70 in all categories receive recognition as high performing.
While recognition is nice, it’s not really what we’re after. Instead we’d like to be a catalyst for focusing facilities and sustainability staff at the Los Angeles Unified School District on making upgrades to schools in ways that save the district money, enhance the learning environment, and reduce school’s impact on the regional urban ecosystem. Our experience with green building rating systems like LEED is that a numerical score combined with suggestions for how to improve that score can be a very simple and powerful tool with decision-makers who are looking to balance priorities across a wide variety of school building types and conditions.
Just in the six schools we’ve been working in – Olive Vista Middle School, Audubon Middle School, Foshay Learning Center, First Street Elementary, Cardenas Elementary, and Escalante Elementary – we’ve encountered this wide variety, depressed by some things and inspired by others. Some notable things we’ve found:
Green Design Standards Matter. Two of the schools we’ve been in are new schools built to new CHPS construction standards with Global Green USA’s assistance. After some teething pains typical of any new building, these schools have dramatically lower water use – and classroom indoor air quality, lighting and acoustics are all measurably better. Their ORC scores in these areas will provide a good target for older schools in the district to shoot for when they plan to upgrade.
Principals, Teachers, and Staff Can Make a Difference. A principal who understands that the conditions in a school building can set a tone and have an impact, and who acts on that understanding, can make a big difference in the school’s ORC performance. A teacher who is active about opening windows and blinds and taking time to learn how to operate the systems present in a classroom can make a big difference. And a plant manager who is concerned about waste and water management can make a big difference.
Portables are Problematic. Portable or temporary bungalow classrooms are performing far worse that permanent buildings, regardless of how good or bad the conditions are in those permanent building. Sound, lighting, thermal comfort and air quality are all noticeably worse. This may come as no surprise to folks who pay attention to school buildings, but it is helpful to remember that while these buildings are always called a “temporary solution” when installed, generations of children end up being educated in them and school upgrade projects should prioritize getting rid of them.
Food Waste is Dramatic. Our waste audits are turning up an unhealthy amount of food waste, whether it be whole uneaten meals, compostable remains, or high volumes of plastic packaging too contaminated to be recycled. This is unhealthy for the kids who are not eating and for the school district that pays to dispose of recyclables rather than being paid for it. It’s also unhealthy for the ecosystem, as methane is being produced in a landfill rather from the food waste, which could instead be putting nutrients back into the soil. Thankfully, one of the schools, inspired by two 4th Grade girls, is taking this challenge head-on by working with a local food bank.
Kids Are Interested. In many classrooms we visit, students want to know what we are doing and, more importantly, why we are doing it. When we explain how classroom conditions impact their ability to pay attention, school district finances, and the natural environment, they get it. This is inspiring.
Energy Use Varies Widely. So far we are not seeing much correlation between low energy use, energy efficient design, ,and high performance in other areas. This is still preliminary, but its quite possible that schools with low energy use are actually that way because fundamental systems like heating and cooling are not working or because they have more technology in the classrooms that other schools. This finding supports our notion that we need to consider a number of factors when assessing the performance of school buildings, not just energy use.
After uploading all the data into the online ORC assessment tool, we will see how the scores turn out. We’re looking forward to seeing if the numbers match our impressions and certainly expect some surprises along way. And then it will be on to the larger task of fixing schools and broadening the use of this integrated assessment tool.
Our Green Urbanism team met with the Mayor of the City of Camden and her staff, along with the Camden Housing Authority, in an effort to improve the neighborhood scale sustainability in the City’s Centerville Neighborhood.
The area has seen a large public investment to the tune of $140 million through HOPE IV, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program to improve public housing by providing a mix of income levels. The Camden Housing Authority was recently awarded a Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) Planning Grant, the successor of the HOPE VI program. The funds will go towards creating a plan for improving the last remaining 1940′s style public housing development, Branch Village, with the hopes of being awarded the Implementation funds under CNI in the upcoming application round (2013).
Through our Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities EPA grant funding, our team of technical experts (including Agora Group and USGBC), embarked on three-day sustainable neighborhood assessment using LEED for Neighborhood Development (ND) to identify City-wide policies, neighborhood design, and development practices that will improve overall sustainability and community resiliency, but specifically to enhance the plans for the Branch Village renovation. Our LEED-ND based recommendations will help strengthen the Housing Authorities CNI Implementation Grant application, since HUD awards points in the competitive application process to projects that are pursuing LEED-ND certification or following the principles therein. It is our hope that the Branch Village housing development will pursue formal LEED-ND certification to remain highly competitive in the application process. If awarded, implementation funds will provide a substantial portion of the funds required to redevelop the housing units at Branch Village and other near by subsidized housing.
Do you – or does someone you know – live in a community that suffered significant damage from Hurricane Sandy? Cities, towns, or boroughs in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or Rhode Island that were devastated by the storm are eligible to apply for technical assistance from Global Green USA to help rebuild in a more sustainable and resilient way.
Share the link to apply with your town, city, or borough leadership today, and urge them to submit the online application by April 30, 2013. This effort is part of Global Green USA’s initiative to help cities with community greening projects using LEED for Neighborhoods (LEED-ND) criteria. Funded by the U.S. EPA, our work with the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program gives us the chance to offer our expert guidance on catalytic projects and collaborate with local leaders committed to making positive changes for their neighbors – and the planet. Our reports are up for the eight cities we helped in 2012 and we have already started work on six additional cities we’re committed to serving in 2013 – plus two additional communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Please share our online application today.
In collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Global Green USA has opened a special application period for our Sustainable Neighborhood Assessment assistance specifically for communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy. This free assistance is being provided under Global Green USA’s grant from the U.S. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities’ Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program. This is an opportunity to access a team of experts who will help create a plan for a specific site or neighborhood that could then serve as a catalyst or model for broader community-wide rebuilding. The result will be a more resilient community that addresses the challenges posed by sea level rise, storm surge, storm intensity, and climate change.
Two communities will be selected to receive expert guidance from our green urbanism experts through an intensive three-day site visit. The Request for Proposals (RFP) is online and open from March 11 through April 30.
Walker Wells, Director of our Green Urbanism Program, contributed to the CALGreen part of the new code – Part 11 – as the environmental representative on the green building code advisory committee. Great to see the new code adopted with the improvements and enhancement to CALGreen!
In the next year, four sustainability experts on our GUP team will conduct three-day visits to Montgomery, Alabama; Camden, New Jersey; Cary, North Carolina; Toledo, Ohio; Burlington, Vermont; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Then they’ll provide comprehensive recommendations for infrastructure and policy changes aimed at helping the communities build a future that is more resource-efficient, livable, healthy, and environmentally responsible.
The neighborhoods were competitively selected for the free consultations based on several criteria, including need for assistance, urgency, substantial upcoming projects, and community engagement.
Using an A to F grading structure, QAPs in all 50 states were analyzed and ranked on a 50-point scale comprised of 32 subtopics distributed across the categories of Smart Growth, Energy Efficiency, Resource Conservation, and Health Protection. This year’s best in class: Connecticut and Maryland. Both states are the first to achieve perfect scores since we began our reporting and established a national performance ranking in 2006. Performing less favorably were states given D’s, including Tennessee, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Utah. Most improved goes to Ohio, which went from a D to an A-.
Across the country, the adoption of green building measures has grown, with this year’s average of 31 representing a 20% increase from 2010′s average of 26. This year, 27 state QAPs offered incentives for projects seeking to achieve certification through a third party green building program, such as USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Enterprise Community Partners’ Green Communities Initiative, or Southface Energy Institute’s Earthcraft, up from 16 in 2010. Energy Efficiency was the most full addressed category in the scoring analysis, with 75% of all possible points scored, and Health Protection surpassed Resource Conservation in terms of overall points achieved by states. Below, state grades.