Those of us who live in cities or other high-volume parts of the country often forget just how inefficient skyscrapers, office buildings, and shopping complexes can be. In fact, American buildings contribute approximately 73% of the country’s overall electricity consumption, a truly astounding number when you look at comparable countries (Canada’s buildings, for example, use just 40% of the country’s overall energy consumption). These buildings are often hastily made, prioritizing potential future revenue over environmental impact and aesthetic appeal.
By contrast, LEED-certified and green buildings require a lot of thought and strategizing. They‘re energy efficient, but they can also be quite beautiful. In southern California, especially, there are several stand-out buildings and architects who are putting environmentally friendly buildings on the map for both Earth friendliness and aesthetic appeal. Here are a few of our favorites.
Helios House Gas Station – Yes, you read that right. This is a gas station. The LEED-certified Helios gas station, a project of the NADAAA architecture firm, sits at the busy intersection of Robertson and Olympic in Los Angeles, CA. The building features a LEED-certified gas pump and 90 solar panels. The geometric stainless-steel design was partially constructed with salvaged materials from the gas station that previously occupied the lot. Additionally, the pavement consists of concrete mixed with recycled glass, which can reduce the amount of heat absorption under the blazing California sun. The Helios station is an experiment in encouraging gas users to strike a balance between energy expenditure and social responsibility. Patrons can also pick up a postcard with embedded seeds to plant around the city.
Step Up on 5th — This is a supportive housing development that includes studio apartments designed for people living with mental illness. The project incorporated multiple energy-efficient measures to exceed standard practice, reducing energy usage during construction and occupancy. Some of their solar energy measures included designing windows for maximized lighting, shading south-facing windows, orienting the building to control solar cooling, and shaping the materials to induce natural ventilation, nearly eliminating the need to use additional cooling systems. These strategies, all of which are passive, make the building 50% more efficient than conventionally designed homes and structures.
PacMutual Campus – At the center of downtown Los Angeles sits the PacMutual campus, a historic building renovated and revitalized to become more environmentally friendly. This is the oldest structure in Southern California to receive a LEED Platinum certification. The renovation cost $25 million and earned 81 points out of the 81 they attempted while constructing under LEED guidelines, thus ranking in the 91st percentile for energy efficiency among similar buildings. The campus continues to offset its energy expenditure with renewable energy credits. The building maintains its neoclassical appearance while continuing to set records for energy efficiency.