Los Angeles Building Retrofit Designed to Boost Green Jobs

Los Angeles Building Retrofit Designed to Boost Green Jobs

A new law on the books in the city of Los Angeles offers big hope for both the green building and green jobs movements.

The L.A. City Council yesterday unanimously passed a "Green Building Retrofit Ordinance" that will retrofit all city-owned buildings larger than 7,500 square feet or built before 1978 with a target of hitting LEED Silver-level certification.

The green jobs element of the project involves putting highest priority on retrofitting buildings that are located in low-income communities, as well as buildings that directly benefit those communities, like libraries and recreation centers.

Among the other goals of the ordinance as outlined by the Los Angeles Apollo Alliance [PDF], are to:

• Establish a pipeline to green careers by recruiting disadvantaged workers into the city training programs that can train and connect unemployed and underemployed workers from under-served communities to construction apprenticeship positions on green retrofits and to job placement elsewhere in the public and private sector;
• Foster inner city economic development by supporting local minority and women-owned green business development;
• To ensure quality green products are being used & purchased locally, encourage local green manufacturing, purchase locally produced green goods that prevent waste and prohibits toxic chemicals that are unhealthy for workers for retrofitting;
• Foster public sector career development within the city by hiring city workers from city training programs, and upgrade part time workers to full time.

The ordinance was developed by the L.A. Apollo Alliance, a broad coalition of community, labor and environmental groups. The green building retrofit ordinance is the group's first initiative.

"The 'Green Building Retrofit Ordinance' shows how environment and energy policies can stimulate California's economy. It will put people to work in green jobs, generate revenue for local businesses, save L.A. taxpayers up to $6 million in energy costs and cut global warming pollution," Derek Walker, director of the Environmental Defense Fund's California Climate Initiative, said in a statement supporting the ordinance. "Los Angeles is setting an example that cities nationwide can follow."

The retrofit ordinance is just the latest in Los Angeles' green plans: In addition to striving to be the country's greenest city, in February of this year the city launched a plan to replace all 140,000 of its streetlights with long-lasting, energy efficient LEDs, a move that will save $48 million in energy and maintenance costs and cut carbon emissions by 197,000 tons over a seven-year period.

In a report released about the same time as the LED lighting overhaul, the Rocky Mountain Institute highlighted the benefits of energy efficiency -- in buildings and elsewhere -- to the U.S.: By boosting energy efficiency, the country could cut electricity use by 30 percent, and reduce the need for coal-fired power plants by 60 percent.

L.A. City Hall photo CC-licensed by Flickr user Omar Omar.