A new generation of architects, engineers and others is spearheading a radically different approach to building design in Los Angeles. Green, or sustainable, building still plays only a minor role in the industry, but the following standouts are at the forefront of a movement that could well revolutionize the industry in the coming decade.

Elizabeth Moule
Age: 46
Title: Principal
Organization: Moule & Polyzoides/Architects and Urbanists
Education: B.A. Smith College; Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York City; Masters in Architecture from Princeton University.
Job Description: Designs buildings, towns and in-fill developments that consider sustainability from the large regional perspective (i.e. eliminating vehicular travel needed to reach a site) down to the smallest recyclable materials.

Past Green Building Projects: The recently completed National Resources Defense Council headquarters in Santa Monica, which was awarded a Platinum rating under the current LEED 2.1, green building rating system. Sustainable elements like recapturing rainwater to flush toilets and sensors that turn lights off when someone leaves a room have made the structure the greenest building on the planet. "It scored higher than any building in the history of the LEED rating system. And that did not even account for the neighborhood development issues we addressed like parking, traffic, and proximity to transportation."

Current Projects: 200-acre mixed-use (retail, residential office, and hotel) sustainable development in Rancho Mirage. Neighborhoods are pedestrian-oriented and encircle a natural desert "greenbelt." Water conservation, storage, and re-use throughout, along with photovoltaic solar cells on each structure. "With a large development, energy issues can be solved at the street level. Buildings will be configured to optimize solar exposure and shade direction; streets will be made out of semi-permeable materials to aid water conversation."

Interest in Green Building: "My father was an aeronautical engineer who sent Apollo rockets to the moon; my grandfather built cars for General Motors. That background was mixed with growing up in Southern California, where I watched suburbanization destroy the natural habitats my family cherished. Architecture was a chance for me to build beautiful spaces that added, not detracted from the environment."

Environmental Philosophy: Moule says the most sustainable city she's ever seen is Rome, Italy, where a limited space has been recycled, compacted and reiterated over hundreds of generations. "We're interested in the broadest possible resource reduction through the fewest number of moves. We want to create spaces that last many lifetimes and don't need to be remade."

Vikas Shrestha
Age: 44
Title: Sustainable Design Coordinator, Associate Architect
Organization: Steinberg Architects, Los Angeles
Education: Architecture Degree, Kharkov Institute of Municipal Engineers, Ukraine; Master's and Ph.D. in architecture, UCLA
Job Description: Project manager who ensures a mandatory baseline is achieved for all sustainable design projects. Firm's minimum targets include 15 percent more energy efficiency than required by state law, reduction of water use in landscaping by 50 percent, and use of environmentally sensitive or recyclable materials totaling 10 percent. Also ensures a sustainable design "advocate" is present on every project to shepherd "green elements" through design, permitting and construction phases.

Past Green Building Projects: Downtown L.A. office at 523 West Sixth St. was recently awarded LEED-CI (commercial interior) Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Shrestha says the space is a showcase used to educate new clients about sustainable design and development.

Current Projects: Northeast Academy Building and Student Services Building, Los Angeles Community College District, Harbor College. Shrestha used daylight modeling (miniature foam-core and cardboard designs analyzed with light meters) to reduce energy consumption where more than 60 percent of total energy used would be electrical lighting. "LACCD mandated their Harbor campus have a LEED Silver certification," Shrestha notes, "so our challenge has been to integrate climate factors like daylight so they become a part of the architecture."

Interest in Green Building: Shrestha grew up in Nepal, where sustainable design is a necessity. "Developing countries can't afford to spend a lot of money on energy," he says, "so everything revolves around climate response and figuring out how to make buildings more comfortable from an environmental perspective." While on a Fulbright Scholarship to UCLA, Shrestha added tools like energy modeling (analyzing a building's properties to determine total energy consumption), and cemented his passion for sustainable building.

Environmental Philosophy: "Architects design buildings that are operational for a long time, so we have to consider long-term energy consumption and costs very carefully. Sustainable building is a return to the roots of architecture, where form and function are on par with aesthetics. It's a blend of old wisdom and new technology."

Mark Yamauchi
Age: 52
Title: Facilities Operations Manager
Organization: Toyota Motor Corp., USA
Education: B.S., urban planning, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Job Description: Operational responsibility for the buildings in Toyota's south campus in Torrance; also assists the development team in managing LEED certification.

Past Green Building Projects: Was part of a team that developed the South Campus facility, which consolidated operations at a lower occupancy cost. The 644,000-square-foot facility is LEED certified and has photovoltaic solar panels that create 536 kilowatts, enough energy to power about 500 homes a year. Also helped develop recently-completed distribution center in Portland, Ore., an energy efficient facility with low noxious emissions that recaptures rainwater. "Each project offers its own environmental opportunities. We wanted to show corporate America that it doesn't have to be anything unusual. You can build green in any project. We wanted to try and mainstream sustainable building."

Current Work: Yamauchi is one of the people charged with rolling out Think Green!, an environmental education and awareness program that encourages company associates to get involved in Toyota's efforts in waste reduction, recycling and energy conservation. The goal is to use fewer materials and have less waste generated by the company.

Interest in Green Building: Toyota's adoption of the Earth Charter in the early '90s a pledge to conduct operations in an environmentally-friendly manner. The company is committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental Philosophy: "It's 'less is more.' Because the ultimate green building is no building. So the more efficient you can be, the better it is from an environment standpoint and a financial and production standpoint."

Tom Neary
Title: Vice President, Director of Business Development
Organization: Morley Builders
Education: B.A., Urban Planning, University of Nebraska
Job Description: Targeting all appropriate business opportunities for the firm with some emphasis on sustainable construction that results in productive and environmentally efficient buildings.

Past Green Building Projects: The Fountain Park Apartments completed in 2002 was the first project of the Playa Vista community. Owner/manager Essex Property Trust, Inc. built 705 units and 12,000 square-feet of retail space. Playa Vista's sustainability guidelines called for Morley to construct a site that was 28 percent more energy efficient than the state's Title 24 standards.

Current Projects: The City of Santa Monica's 104,000-square-foot Main Library recently received an LEED Silver rating, which Morley achieved with only marginally higher building costs of 2-3 percent. The firm achieved the Silver rating, mandated by the city, by making it a part of all their specifications and bidding criteria to subcontractors and suppliers. They tracked bidding criteria to ensure all hires were fully compliant.

Interest in Green Building: Neary said that sustainable construction is a topic of conversations with various clients, who have discovered that there are significant operational savings and worker productivity improvements in green buildings even if up-front costs might be higher. "Sustainable construction has become so pervasive in the marketplace that we would lose competitiveness if we did not have a significant presence. The gains are real and measurable."

Green Building Philosophy: Long-term stewardship of natural resources and materials is the firm's driving force in the area of sustainable construction. "The recognition that there are more intelligent ways to design and build structures of all types is embedded in the way we conduct business."

Deborah Weintraub
Age: 53
Title: Deputy City Engineer
Organization: City of Los Angeles
Education: B.A. in Architecture, Princeton University; M.A. in Architecture, University of California at Berkeley.
Job Description: Oversees the architecture and engineering groups in the city's Bureau of Engineering; Weintraub and her staff provide core support to all capital improvement programs, new construction and major renovations .

Past Green Building Projects : Weintraub was instrumental in pushing efforts to mandate the use of LEED design principles for all city funded projects. Prior to working with the City of Los Angeles, Weintraub worked for Southern California Edison, where she had a hand in building the Newport Coast Elementary School. The K-6 campus in Orange County is energy efficient and has recycled content in its construction materials. She also worked on a yearlong, side-by-side comparison project for Beazer Homes in Simi Valley, in which one house was built using regular construction methods and materials, while the house next door was built using green design concepts and environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient materials.

Current Work: As the primary capital delivery organization for the city, the Bureau of Engineering has more than 1 billion square feet of projects in the pipeline, all of which is to be LEED certified. It is likely that within two years Los Angeles may have the largest number of LEED certified buildings in the country, Weintraub said. Some of the biggest are new city police stations, fire stations and animal care facilities. "The single largest project, which we hope to get bids for this week, is the new police headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. It covers about half a million square feet."

Interest in Green Building: Weintraub's initial involvement in green design came through an interest in health, and the impacts of construction materials on well-being. "I saw folks around me being diagnosed with illnesses they were much too young for. That led me to explore the need to decrease environmental impact as standard practice."

Environmental Philosophy: "From where I sit, which is in the public sector and building and operating on tight budgets, I advocate that we incorporate off-the-shelf type technology in green design. I support all things bleeding edge in the arena, but they are not always workable from the standpoint of our constraints. We're looking to incorporate things that have demonstrated their viability. I try to think holistically we don't have extensive maintenance budgets, so we have to use what we know works. We're looking to move the whole industry forward."

Larry Eisenberg
Age: 54
Title: Executive Director, Facilities Planning and Development
Organization: Los Angeles Community College District
Education: B.S., urban studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Masters in public administration, University of Texas at Austin
Job Description: Overseeing all district facilities, including its $2.2 billion bond-funded construction program.

Past Green Building Projects: As Washington County Department of Support Services facilities manager, he's proudest of two construction projects: a juvenile shelter, designed as a green building in landscaping, energy consumption and use of recycled materials, and a correction center that used recycled lumber found in a cold storage facility on the property.

Current Projects: The community college district claims its construction program is the largest sustainable building project in the country, involving scores of renovated buildings that will incorporate LEED standards. One newly-opened Los Angeles Valley College building incorporates sustainable landscape, native species, photovoltaic cells and high-efficiency lighting, heating and cooling systems. Also, he has proposed installing enough photovoltaic solar cells to take the district off the energy grid.

Interest in Green Building: "In training as a city planner at MIT one of the issues at that point was the growth of cities. I think that was the start of it. Ever since I have always been working on green programs and ideas. We can't go on the way we are and we're changing the environment in too dramatic a way."

Green Building Philosophy: "The basis of sustainability is we need to provide for the future. We have to leave zero foot prints on the earth. That's the heart of sustainability Sometimes it's the choice not to use material when you might otherwise. We didn't put in any dropped ceilings in the shopping areas (of the new Valley College building) so we used less materials. We didn't really need them."

Joan Ling
Age : 51
Title: Executive Director
Organization: Community Corp. of Santa Monica
Education: B.A.,
sociology and anthropology, Chatham
College; Master's degree in architecture and urban planning from UCLA.
Job Description: Runs nonprofit organization devoted to finding and managing affordable housing in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. A key mission of the organization is to provide environmentally sensitive housing to lower-wage working families.

Past Projects: Her marquee project to date is an affordable, sustainable housing building at 502 Colorado Ave. in Santa Monica. The 44-unit building uses solar panels to generate heat and hot water, strategic window placement to reduce heat and on-site natural gas-powered microturbine generators to generate nearly all of the tenants' electricity needs. But Ling said that while large projects are fulfilling, smaller retrofit projects such as one completed on Delaware Avenue can be just as effective. "We came in and this building was in bad shape. We added energy efficient windows and doors, low-water landscaping and 4-to-6 inches of insulation to the roof. It's the simple and inexpensive changes that make the biggest difference in these buildings."

Current Projects: Along with managing the Community Corp.'s 80 existing properties, she is also searching for new ones, such as Rand Corp. headquarters planned for Main Street in Santa Monica. The mixed use project will involve 325 mixed-income units and actually return power to the grid.

Interest in Green Building: Ling's involvement with green building grew substantially after she took the position of executive director of the organization in 1991, though she's always had an environmental conscious.

Environmental Philosophy: "I've always felt I should leave the world that I touch better than I found it."

Ed P. Reyes
Age: 47
Title: Los Angeles City Councilman, District 1
Education: B.A.
English and Master's in architecture and urban planning, University of California, Los Angeles.
Job Description: As the chair of the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee he plays a key role in sustainable development on large scale projects, many of which come before his committee.

Past Green Buildings Work: Reyes smoothed the way for the Audubon Society to build its LEED Platinum-rated center at Debs Park in his district. The center features recycled materials, native landscaping and is the first building in the city to be entirely powered by on-site solar systems.

Current Work: In addition to his efforts to guide LEED-certified buildings through the city approval process, Reyes is leading an initiative to install rooftop gardens on government buildings. The gardens can significantly reduce energy usage and air conditioning costs. He also is a strong proponent of ripping up the concrete banks of the Los Angeles River to return it to a more natural state.

Interest in Green Building: A native of Lincoln Heights, Reyes credits his urban upbringing as a catalyst for his push for more environmentally sensitive development. "It sounds corny, but I remember how great it felt to just step on grass when I was a kid. Kids from here play on streets and in stairwells."

Environmental Philosophy: "I am trying to show that green space is not only aesthetically pleasing to the residents who live in neighborhoods but is also economically beneficial."

James Thomas
Age: 69
Title: Chief Executive Officer
Company: Thomas Properties Group
Education: B.A., economics, Baldwin-Wallace College 1959; J.D., Cleveland Marshall Law School, 1963.

Past Green Building Work: Thomas' company designed, built and operates the greenest high-rise in the nation the 25-story Joe Serna Jr. California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Sacramento, which boasts $1 million a year in operational savings from green building management practices.

Current Projects: In addition to various green design properties in the works, Thomas established the company's High Performance Building Fund, which is dedicated to the development of sustainable, energy efficient, and environmentally sensitive office and mixed-use properties. The fund is also earmarked for the acquisition of existing commercial buildings for conversion to high performance, or green operations. The goal is to add value to properties by making them more attractive to tenants through environmentally efficient and economical operations.

Interest in Green Building: Thomas said one of the first developments that piqued his interest in green building was the Playa Vista residential/commercial community development in West L.A. Thomas' former partnership, Maguire Thomas Partners, bought into and helped plan the massive $7 billion, 1,100-acre residential/commercial community in the late 1980s. "Things just began to take root. We've been interested since then, and I think it's inevitable that there's a mega trend toward high efficiency, green buildings." Thomas said he believes the inevitable move toward sustainable development will soon render non-green building construction obsolete.

Environmental Philosophy: "The thing about green building that I find most intriguing is the ability to have things in our projects that increase employee productivity. In business, the largest cost by far is compensation, it's many times more than building rent, so if you can have a building that's not only energy efficient, but can increase employee productivity, then you'll have a real leg up. There will be less sickness, less absenteeism, so the employees are there and performing well. People are impacted by the lighting, air quality, heating and cooling, as well as chemicals in the building, cleaning products used, paint and carpet."

Joel Reynolds
Age: 53
Title: Senior Attorney, Director of Urban Programs
Organization: Natural Resource Defense Council, Los Angeles office
Education: B.S. in political Science, University of California, Riverside; J.D., Columbia University.
Job Description: "My main charge is to identify environmental problems in the second-largest urban area in the U.S. and hunt down solutions on how to solve them." The council works cooperatively with local organizations and developers but also makes use of litigation.

Past Green Building Projects: Spearheaded the construction of the NRDC's L.A. headquarters in Santa Monica, which became the world's first LEED Platinum-certified building in 2003.

Current Work: "Having completed our own LEED Platinum green building here in Santa Monica, my role as an environmental advocate is not to become a green building developer it is to continue to use our building as a compelling example in conversations with major developers about what can be accomplished. And why it is in their financial interest to seek LEED certification for their projects."

Interest in the Environment: Growing up in smog-ridden Riverside the 1960s and 1970s, Reynolds recalled being concerned about the environment even then: "I was active and played outside almost all day during the summer and remembered being very aware of the poor air quality and the effects it had on me as well as the entire community." He also credited the political environment of the late 1960s and the personality of Robert F. Kennedy for spurring him to pursue a career that "focused more on social issues than personal."

Environmental Philosophy: Never give up the fight: "Of course victories are great, but it's continuing the fight every day that is my favorite part of the job and what inspires me to continue."

Joe Sanders
Age: 49
Title: Senior Vice President/Director of Operations
Organization: Charles Pankow Builders, Ltd.
Education: Purdue University, Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
Job Description: As corporate director of operations, Sanders is responsible for overseeing field operations across all geographic regions, and leads the firm's ongoing efforts to research, develop and deploy innovative building methods and materials.

Past Green Building Projects: 555 City Center, a 20-story, 620,000-square-foot office building in downtown Oakland that used green construction but is not LEED certified.

Current Projects: Sanders oversees all of Pankow's large building projects, including the LEED Silver-certified San Mateo Library building in San Mateo, California. Another green building project in the works is a new police facility in San Mateo.

Interest in Green Building: Sanders' involvement started with research on improvements in concrete construction and ways to design and construct buildings that survive earthquakes. Sanders said his early experience with concrete opened the door for him to learn about overall green design. "(It) exposed me to discussions on buildings that last which really is sustainability."

Green Building Philosophy: Sanders believes construction firms should be highly involved in green construction through a process called design-build that puts them in close contact with architects. "Design-build brings the builder into the design process and breaks down the divisions between owner, architect and contractor to ensure that the intent of each LEED credit is met."

Jason J. Lorcher
Age: 37
Title: Director, Los Angeles office
Organization: GreenWorks Studio (Consultants)
Education: B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Ohio State University
Job Description: Uses computerized models to define a building's "envelope" (roof, walls, glazing) and create energy models that maximize efficiency for clients by as much as 60 percent over the state's Title 24 standards.

Past Green Building Work: The firm helped the Los Angeles Library, Lakeview Terrace branch, secure a LEED-certified Platinum rating with a 52-point score in five key determinants: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, indoor environmental quality and materials and resources. Their work on the Sun Valley Library won a Savings By Design Award of Merit.

Current Projects: "We're participating in the 2030 challenge, which the AIA (American Institute of Architects) has issued to reduce 100 percent of fossil fuel energy consumption in new buildings by 2030." Among the projects in line with those goals is the Mothers' Club Community Center in Pasadena.

Interest in Green Building: Lorcher grew up in Ohio, where his parents a biology teacher and an industrial engineer instilled a passion for the environment. "Green design allows me to use my engineering background to impact a building holistically. It treats the site as a living body that can give energy back to the environment."

Environmental Philosophy: Life-cycle costs are the company's driving force. Green strategies like daylight sensors and displacement ventilation may cost more upfront, but they save money over the long term and create a more comfortable building to occupy. "The energy modeling we did for the Calabasas Library and City Hall secured the owner $90,000 in efficiency incentives (from state utility companies). It used day-lighting controls to reduce interior lighting by 30 percent, as well as high-efficiency HVAC equipment, which employs chilled water to cool the building."

David Geffner, Anne Riley-Katz, Allen P. Roberts Jr., Emily Bryson York

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.