Early in July, the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation invited the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to visit our building and community. The USGBC works to change the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, ensuring all aspects implement the highest level of building and environmental efficiency.
We invited the USGBC and their San Diego chapter to come in and help us incorporate more elements of sustainability into all our development practices. Recently, the Jacobs Center celebrated the grand opening of a new Walgreens, started construction on all-new multi-family apartment homes, and held hiring events to employ neighborhood residents with construction positions to bolster the local economy. These projects are part of an overall plan to develop the approximately 50 acres of land that the Jacobs Center owns in the Diamond Neighborhoods of San Diego. We looked to the USGBC to give us suggestions on ways to improve our current buildings, those that are in the process of being built, and all other neighborhood redevelopment projects planned for the future.
Those bright minds in sustainability and green building provided information on improvements that can be made on three different levels:
- Building Level – Ways that the Joe & Vi Jacobs Center building can reduce its energy and water use.
- Neighborhood Level – Ways to increase connectivity and sustainability on the 60 acres of land owned by the Jacobs Center.
- Human Experience Level – Ways to improve access to community assets, food security and workforce opportunities as well as better community engagement.
Members of the USGBC broke off into groups according to each of these levels and toured the Joe & Vi Jacobs Center, Market Creek Plaza, and redevelopment projects and parts of the neighborhood. They provided insights and advice in group sessions following their tour and presented to the group as a whole for discussion. Many of their recommendations are already elements we are looking to implement while others were great food for thought for our future plans.
Here are some of their recommendations:
The group identified building inefficiencies that can be improved upon, offering ways of retro commissioning (which is a process for identifying less-than-optimal performance in your facility’s equipment, lighting and control systems and making the necessary adjustments) parts of the existing building system and finding where energy is being lost. For example, one way we can improve our building’s energy efficiency is by upgrading to Energy Star appliances in our kitchens. Bringing in energy efficient dishwashers and ice machines would help cut down our energy usage.
USBGC members recommended putting in bus shelters and trash receptacles at bus stops throughout the neighborhood, which is something we are already working on incorporating into the area as part of our plans for a Community Facilities District. They also gave great insights into finding ways for the roads and streets in the area to benefit multiple types of commuters and pedestrians. Complete streets that joggers, pedestrians, strollers, skaters, cyclists and others can feel safe using as they get from point A to point B is a big step in improving the neighborhood.
Human Experience Level
We heard about an interesting project in Charlotte, NC, from the USBGC Human Experience team. The McCall Center in Charlotte enlisted local artist Aurora Robson to work with residents on a creek clean up. The discarded trash and other found items they discovered during the clean up event were used for a public art piece. Since the Jacobs Center is located right along Chollas Creek, and we regularly work with community organizations and residents to hold clean up events, this was offered as a great opportunity to turn trash into treasure. The team also recommended utilizing a temporary space for a community garden that could provide produce for our catering kitchen and social enterprise, True Roots Catering.
We look forward to incorporating their ideas into our practices and projects as we continue to work with the San Diego Chapter of the Green Building Council.