San Francisco 2030 District Expands Scope to Work for a Greener City

San Francisco 2030 District RMW Architecture & Interiors San Francisco Chinatown Community Development Center California Energy Commission

By Jacob Bourne

Launched in December 2014 by Stan Lew, principal at RMW Architecture & Interiors, the San Francisco 2030 District is a public-private non-profit collaborative that’s part of similar efforts in several U.S. cities to significantly reduce energy consumption, water use and emissions by the year 2030. Lew, who’s the executive director of the local collaborative, had originally discovered Districts in Seattle, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles in 2012, and immediately knew that one was needed in San Francisco to encourage environmental sustainability in real estate.

“We’ve come a long way but have miles to go,” Lew commented. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We will progressively pick-up momentum as we add more buildings.”

To date, the District is an aggregate of over 12 million square feet of participating buildings located within the Downtown, Financial District, Nob Hill, Yerba Buena, South Beach, SoMa, Tenderloin and Civic Center Neighborhoods. The District provides property owners with a roadmap of measurable goals and an energy portfolio management calculator to incrementally boost sustainability ratings through retrofits and other projects. The overarching goal for new buildings is to be completely carbon neutral by 2030, while older buildings pursue the benchmark of 50-percent above baseline in terms of energy performance by the same year. In addition to increasing the value of the properties, one of the benefits of participation is access to a marketplace where landlords can purchase products like LED lights, electric vehicle chargers and high performance windows at below market prices. To foster the development of energy performance products for the marketplace, an Innovation Advisory Council was recently created.

In the two years since the District’s inception, a solid number property owners now have participating buildings. There are also many professional and community supporters and funders, such as the California Energy Commission. Though the District has mainly been popular with newer office developments, Lew and others have worked to diversify by bringing aboard the Moscone Center, hotels and affordable multi-family residential buildings. About 400 units of affordable housing and 1,100 hotel rooms are now a part of the District. Efforts are now underway to expand the portfolio to include retail, restaurants, healthcare and other energy intensive property types.

“We were awarded a CEC grant in February but didn’t start the project until this summer,” Lew offered. “We’re working to convert an SRO building in the Tenderloin. It’s a 109 year old building and we’re not entirely sure what the result will be because we’ve never done it before. We want to make the lives of the residents improved by eliminating utility bills, which will also reduce operating costs for the building’s owner. It could also improve air quality for residents. It’s a historic building, which poses challenges, but it’s also an opportunity to potentially improve affordable housing throughout San Francisco and the State.”

The SRO, or single resident occupancy building, is located at 160 Eddy Street and is owned by the Chinatown Community Development Center. The SRO units make up the majority of the building but there is also a theater and youth center on the ground floor. The $3 million grant will be used to renovate the existing building to perform at Zero Net Energy standards. The District was also awarded a $2 million grant from the CEC for software tool development to model whole building integrated retrofits for all climate zones in California.

On December 1, the two grant funded projects were presented at the 2016 Epic Symposium: Innovative Solutions for Reaching California’s 2030 Energy Goals at the Sacramento Convention Center. The event’s topics also included possible innovations for the State’s electric grid, boosting clean energy technological development and creating Advanced Energy Communities.

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