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April 7-9, 2008

 

Greening the Golden State

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has committed government to leading by example, showing California’s private sector – and the nation – the path to a sustainable future.

A state of unsurpassed bounty, California is also a place of contradictions. Blessed with some of the most spectacular wilderness on Earth, it is also home to some of the nation’s most polluted urban areas. With the world’s eighth-largest economy, California occupies a unique position on the national stage. It has a long-standing reputation for leadership in environmental protection and is known for implementing regulations and standards more rigorous than those set at the federal level.

Under the leadership of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California is entering the “century of the environment” with a new level of commitment to environmental stewardship, going as far as making the practice of sustainability part of the fabric of government itself. One of the aims of this strategy is to make government facilities a proving ground, demonstrating to the private sector that “greening” the workplace has a wide range of benefits, from cost savings to worker satisfaction and productivity. And as California sets the bar higher and higher in mandating the use of environmentally friendly practices and products, industry has responded by developing and marketing them.

Through these efforts, the state hopes to set the pace for government efforts all over the country. Legislators have worked in an unusually cooperative, bi-partisan manner to develop new legal frameworks for environmental protection. State agencies, commissions and action teams are maintaining focus on implementing new programs and attaining goals.

Though all concerned would like to see even more activity, when compared to the near-glacial pace at which government reform generally proceeds, the progress to date is truly remarkable. To fully appreciate what California’s state government has undertaken, it’s important to look at the whole package. From addressing climate change, to purchasing practices that reduce pollution and waste, to mandating increased energy efficiency for all state buildings, California state is redefining the concept of “green government.”

The Green Action Team

The Green Action Team, created to implement the Governor’s Green Building Initiative (Executive Order S-20-04). Chaired by Rosario Marin, Secretary of State in Consumer Services, it has been overseeing an ambitious plan to retro-commission all large government buildings for energy efficiency and to integrate sustainable building practices in all new government buildings. Under the auspices of the Department of General Services, 187 out of 250 buildings larger than 50,000 square feet have been benchmarked (a process of setting the energy efficiency standard for the building). By the end of next year, all 1,566 occupied state buildings will have been benchmarked and will be ready for energy enhancements. Thirty-one of the 250 benchmarked buildings are scheduled for retro-commissioning this year, with 25 more scheduled for next year.

Undertaking such a huge number of projects is uncharted territory for any government entity, but it’s only part of the story. In addition, six new government buildings have been LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Sixty-four more new buildings are pursuing LEED certification.

The state government leases almost nine million square feet of office, storage and other space. Under the Executive Order, preference is given to lessors who provide energy efficient buildings. The Department of Motor Vehicles in Riverside, California, is the first build-to-suit lease that has been certified with a Silver LEED rating.

“The Governor’s strong position on these programs is a major factor in their success,” said Secretary Marin. “At the building level, or at the agency level, the main barrier to change is lack of executive support. We don’t have that problem.”

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