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May 27, 2024
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Los Angeles Better Buildings Challenge Names Its Annual Innovation Awards Winners


Following Mayor Garcetti’s “Safer at Home” Order, the Los Angeles Better Buildings Challenge (LABBC) recently celebrated its 6th Annual Innovation Awards virtually, presenting the city’s most prestigious sustainability prizes to 2019’s “Best Buildings” as selected by a distinguished panel of judges from the commercial real estate and environmental policy spheres. The pivot from live to online did not deter attendance, with nearly 200 people tuning in, consistent with prior years.

The energy and water use reductions achieved by this year’s participants bring Los Angeles closer to achieving the goals set forth by the City of Los Angeles’ Sustainable City pLAn, which seeks to put LA on a course to reach the science-based targets laid out in the Paris Climate Accord.

Los Angeles has already passed one of the most sweeping city-level building performance ordinances in the nation, and was recently recognized as the #1 ENERGY STAR City in the nation by the EPA. But these building owners were doing this work before it became mandatory, proving that it is possible to meet ambitious sustainability targets cost-effectively.

LABBC presented awards in six categories to the following winners:

Private Sector Awards:

• Jonathan Rose Companies | Portfolio of the Year. Leveraging a complex stack of incentives from the Low-Income Weatherization Program, LADWP, and SoCalGas, Jonathan Rose Companies completed comprehensive building upgrades projected to reduce energy consumption more than 50 percent and proved it is possible to electrify the central hot water system in a high-rise building.

• Kilroy Realty | Westside Media Center: Energy Efficiency Project of the Year. Kilroy dropped energy consumption 45.9 percent since taking ownership, mainly through changes to how the building is operated, developed in collaboration with tenants.

• Century Housing | Florence Avenue Villas: Affordable Multifamily Project of the Year. Century Housing implemented extensive energy and water efficiency measures resulting in 54.4 percent projected savings, without displacing tenants.

• Kaiser Permanente | Harbor City Medical Center: Water Performance of the Year. This project is the first known application of radial deionization technology to cooling towers, which saved 2.5 million gallons of water per year while reducing water treatment costs and avoiding discharge of 4,000 pounds of chemicals to the sewer system.

Public Sector (Walk the Walk Awards):

• Los Angeles Community College District | LA City College: Walk the Walk – Energy. LACCD’s Energy Blitz initiative engaged more than 800 LACC community members, leading to a 23 percent energy use reduction year over year.

• City of Los Angeles | City Hall East: Walk the Walk – Water. An innovative electrochemical cooling tower water treatment system is reducing water use by 20 percent, knocking sewer charges down 85 percent, and virtually eliminating the need for chemicals to treat the water.

Although much remains uncertain about when the economy will begin to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, government must make sustainability a central tenet of the recovery strategy. This sentiment was echoed by guest speakers Lauren Faber O’Connor, LA’s Chief Sustainability Officer, representatives from Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, SoCalGas, and the award winners.

“Our ability to recover from this crisis and become a more resilient community depends on building back better than we were before, ensuring that the ‘new normal’ for L.A. is better for our public health, for our low-income communities, the economy, and the climate,” said Faber O’Connor.

LABBC Executive Director, David Hodgins noted: “By recognizing our sustainability leaders, we are showing that it’s possible for other buildings to achieve similar results. These buildings are more resilient -- economically and environmentally -- which puts them on better footing to take on the unprecedented challenges we’re facing.”

While the effects of the pandemic ripple through the global economy, communities face the increasingly tangible effects of climate change. The news cycle may have moved on, but here in California we would be wise to bear in mind that the most devastating fire season ever looms close in the rearview mirror.

“Climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies are vital to the region’s economic prosperity and public health – never before has the connection between the two been clearer,” said Hodgins. Hopefully, the projects recognized here will help us plot a more sustainable path forward.

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