San Diego Isn’t As Green As It Should Be

When the newest Green Buildings Adoption Index report came out earlier this week ranking the top 30 metropolitan areas in the United States, I checked it to see where San Diego stood. It would be in the Top Ten, right?

No – and we didn’t even make the Top 20.

In the report by the commercial real estate firm CBRE Group Inc. and Maastricht University in the Netherlands with the U.S. Green Building Council assessing the percentage of green, environmentally friendly and LEED certified buildings in the region, San Diego ranked 21st.

This is pretty disappointing to me. San Francisco came in first, with 73.7 percent of its office space classified as “green.” The report defines this as buildings with either an EPA Energy Star Label or LEED Certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and includes a number of criteria related to energy efficient construction and operation. Chicago came in second, Minneapolis third, Houston fourth, Atlanta fifth.

Rounding out the top ten are Los Angeles, Denver, Washington DC, Seattle and Orange County.

According to the report, 7.91 percent of San Diego buildings surveyed fit its green definition. The one bit of good news is that 28.4 percent of the square footage is classified as green thanks to new construction and retrofitting of existing space. San Diego has approximately 5,500 commercial buildings, covering 114.2 million square feet.  kilroy-moss-wall-1

Like many areas San Diego is making progress. One of the companies dedicated to green building is Kilroy Realty. Kilroy owns 12 LEED Certified buildings and nine buildings that are Energy Star compliant. Good Earth Plant Company worked on Kilroy’s most recent LEED Gold Certified building, an office complex on Del Mar Heights Road. We placed a moss living wall in the lobby.

Good Earth Plant Company has contributed to several other LEED Certified buildings in San Diego, including the San Diego Gas & Electric Energy Innovation Center (EIC, the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, the law firm of Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP,  LPL Financial, and bkm OfficeWorks.

The Good Earth Plant Company living wall at the SDGE Energy Innovation Center is one of our favorite projects. See it at the USGBC Green Building Expo on September 22.

The Good Earth Plant Company living wall at the SDGE Energy Innovation Center is one of our favorite projects.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s 2015 report “The Business Case for Green Building” says sustainability is also all about another kind of green: money. LEED certified buildings are more competitive in the commercial and private real estate markets, attracting tenants, reducing operational costs, and increasing worker productivity and satisfaction.

These number stood out to me. In one research study looking only at financial institutions like banks, employees working in LEED certified branches were “more productive and engaged in their work” than their colleagues in non-LEED branches of the same bank. Revenue was higher in the LEED bank branches than non-LEED branches, even when the branches all offered exactly the same products and services.

The new eighth floor planter, a little nature to destress all the law students courtesy of Good Earth Plants!

The new eighth floor planter, a little nature to destress all the law students at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, courtesy of Good Earth Plant Company.

Something simple as a view can make a company more money. Office workers with the best view performed between 10 and 25 percent better on tests of mental function and memory than their co-workers with no view at all. In businesses where attention to detail and strategic thinking is critical, wouldn’t you want employees to have a nice window?

More than half of consumers in a Nielsen global survey on corporate social responsibility (55 percent) said they are willing to pay more for products and services produced or offered by companies committed to positive social and environmental impact, and this number has increased every year.

When it comes to residential construction, nearly three quarters (73 percent) of residential builders say consumers will pay more for a green home. A Harris Interactive poll of 2,000 Americans found that nearly half consider eco-friendly features more important than luxury items in a home (49 percent to 31 percent).

Still one of our favorite projects, the living wall at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law downtown.

Our living wall at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in the East Village area of downtown San Diego.

We’ve written many times about the health and wellness benefits of green building, as well as the energy savings to companies to make even small changes in energy efficient practices.

Living walls and green roof systems can make a significant contribution toward LEED-certification. A green roof alone can contribute as much as 20 percent of the points needed toward LEED certification. Good Earth Plant Company continues to get more inquiries every week about incorporating plants and nature into today’s offices and other workspaces, public facilities like shopping centers, hotels and schools, and residential properties too.

We love to educate people about the possibilities for green building on any scale. My staff knows I can talk about this as long as anyone will let me. Contact us at Good Earth Plant Company, and working together let’s get San Diego into the Top 20 rankings of the Green Buildings Adoption Index by next year!