live / 2014
Los Angeles Resilience Rating System
Please describe yourself.
Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)
In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.
USGBC-LA is transforming LA’s built environment by supporting sustainability, resiliency, and environmental justice for all.
Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?
- Central LA
- East LA
- South LA
- San Gabriel Valley
- San Fernando Valley
- South Bay
- Southern California Region
What is your idea/project in more detail?
Resilience is the capacity of people, communities and institutions to bounce back to a position of strength, health and vitality after experiencing shocks or stresses. It means more than surviving—it means thriving. The LA Resilience Rating System will encourage and enable building projects to become more resilient in the face of earthquakes, drought, climate change, power outages or other disasters in ways that also improve daily quality of life. By providing leaders in the design, construction and operation of buildings and neighborhoods with a step-by-step process, performance standards and recognition, our work will drive higher standards throughout the industry and create a better LA today.
What will you do to implement this idea/project?
Imagine Los Angeles after a major earthquake. Experts predict that the biggest risks to LA are the impacts to our aging infrastructure. Broken water pipes, downed power lines and collapsed roads could leave Angelenos without water, power or access to food for days, weeks or months, undermining the very fabric of our city. The more that communities can rely upon alternative sources of water and energy, locally grown food, and connections between neighbors, the better able we will be to survive without outside support in emergencies, and the better our everyday quality of life will be. Our team will develop a rating system that leverages existing resilience toolkits to help decision-makers implement resilience strategies for projects ranging from new construction to existing building operations at the scale of single buildings to entire neighborhoods or campuses.
Well-designed rating systems can change the world. The USGBC’s LEED systems transformed the building industry, moving green building into the mainstream. Enterprise’s Green Communities Criteria (EGC) raised the bar for affordable housing nationwide. We will build on these approaches to design a tool to take projects beyond green to true resilience.
To do this, we will assemble an Advisory Committee of diverse technical experts and community leaders. We will train two interns from LA Community College District to build capacity in resilience. We will survey two test case projects: the development of an emergency preparedness plan for LACCD, and an urban infill adaptive re-use development near a large regional infrastructure project. We will evaluate the best available existing resources from LEED, EGC, 100Resilient Cities, Los Angeles County Community Disaster Resilience Project, USRC’s CoRE program and Arup’s REDI program and others to ensure that our system builds on and complements work that is already being done. We will reference existing processes or strategies that are relevant to our target audience; where none are available, we will develop them within the scope of this project, or we will pursue additional funds or collaborators to create them. The rating system will include a process for engaging stakeholders and evaluating risks and a library of best practices and performance targets for resilience strategies. The system will balance simplicity and technical specificity so building projects can act, and will reward qualifying projects with third-party certification and recognition
How will your idea/project help make LA the healthiest place to LIVE today? In 2050?
LA faces many threats beyond earthquakes. Climate change will bring more drought, more heat waves, bigger storms and rising sea levels, as well as disruptions in agriculture, energy supply and other economic impacts. Add to this our aging infrastructure, rising housing costs and high unemployment. Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have given us a preview of coming attractions of what can happen in a disaster. Without taking drastic action, LA is at risk. We must prepare for the worst by helping to create the best LA now.
The good news is that resilience strategies can solve more than one problem at a time. The answer lies in making our core systems stronger, our built environment more durable, our infrastructure more distributed, and our communities more connected. For example, using reclaimed water or on-site solar power not only can support what the Resilient Design Institute founder Alex Wilson calls “passive survivability,” they also reduce utility bills and carbon emissions. Community gardens not only support a distributed food supply, they also provide fresh and healthy food, exercise and opportunities for community members to connect. Tree plantings not only provide shade in a warmed climate and help with stormwater management, they also provide cleaner air, habitat and beauty in the short term. Community-based healthcare facilities not only decentralize the location of potential first responders, they also enable broader access and programs that are tailored to local populations. And the work needed to implement all of these strategies for the future can create good jobs today. Moving toward resilience not only will prepare us for disaster, it will provide an opportunity for us to create the LA of our dreams.
The goal of the of the LA Resilience Rating System is to provide projects with a road map for tackling tough issues in ways that achieve measurable results, prepare them for disasters in the future, and enable them to recover quickly and fully to a place of health and vitality. Investing in preparation for the future means improving quality of life today.
Whom will your project benefit?
Overall, this project’s implementation will help anyone who lives or works in or around a building that employs this rating system, improving quality of life in the near term and mitigating catastrophe in the long term. Residents and employees at participating buildings will feel the benefits most directly, but it will also help achieve the goals of property owners, developers, community development corporations and city leaders. With specific processes, best practices and performance metrics, this project has the potential to elevate the evaluation and implementation of resilience at a range of scales.
In particular the L.A. Resilience Rating System will:
• Provide resilience-related technical guidance to our test case projects
• Give technical guidance and recognitions to anyone working on a building-related project in the region, including building owners, developers, campuses, community groups, planning/design/construction professionals, and facilities operators
• Provide a process for project teams to actively engage communities within or adjacent to their projects • Provide clear performance criteria that can be used by those involved in evaluating, approving, regulating or funding projects, including local officials, community groups, banks and lenders, or insurance providers, in order to verify that projects reduce risks and serve the public good. • Offer a usable model to other organizations and cities seeking to address resilience • Create an opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration and collective learning among members of the Advisory Committee • Support emerging leaders from LACCD campuses and build capacity around resilience • Provide a resource for all USGBC and Enterprise stakeholders on topics that are not fully currently addressed by existing rating systems, including social equity and disaster preparedness
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
The US Green Building Council’s LA Chapter (USGBC-LA) will lead this project in collaboration with the Enterprise Community Partners Southern California office and the LA Community College District. USGBC-LA is a non-profit whose mission is to promote sustainability in Southern California’s built environment by delivering access to knowledge, resources, recognition and networking. The USGBC is the nation’s foremost environmental coalition, and innovator of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Rating System.
LACCD is the largest community college system in the USA with 9 campuses and 250,000 students. USGBC-LA and LACCD have been in partnership on training, building, and strengthening the green workforce in LA for the past ten years. Projects include yearly conferences, trainings on sustainable facility operations, and the City’s Green Business Certification Program. LACCD is about to launch a process to develop emergency preparedness plans for each of its nine campuses. The diverse facilities, communities and programs that each campus represents will provide real world test cases for our team to consider in order to ensure that our final products are feasible, relevant and effective for a wide range of conditions. We will also offer two 6-month funded internships to LACCD students from relevant disciplines.
Enterprise Community Partners is a national nonprofit community investment company providing expertise for developing affordable housing and building sustainable communities. Enterprise has worked closely with USGBC National on a variety of projects including the development of the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria. Enterprise has invested more than $1 billion in Southern California to expand the supply of green, affordable housing and is committed to advancing equitable transit-oriented development. They bring technical expertise in rating systems development as well as the direct and test case projects development, financing and implementation of new construction, adaptive reuse, renewable energy, and green infrastructure projects.
The keys to the success of this collaboration are open communication, mutual respect and a clear work plan. Ultimately, our shared commitment to the core goals of resilience and our shared vision of the potential of this project to bring positive change to the region underlie all of our interactions and will enable us to be successful.
How will your project impact the LA2050 “Live” metrics?
- Access to healthy food
- Healthcare access
- Exposure to air toxins
- Number of households below the self-sufficiency standard
- Percent of imported water
- Obesity rates
- Rates of homelessness
- Walk/bike/transit score
- Acres and miles of polluted waterways
- Rates of mental illnesses
- Prevalence of adverse childhood experience (Dream Metric)
- Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)
- Percentage of residents receiving coordinated healthcare services (Dream Metric)
- Percentage of tree canopy cover (Dream Metric)
- Ability of communities to survive, recover and rebound fully after emergencies.
Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.
While our proposal specifically focuses on the “Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric),” the project has the potential to impact every one of the metrics on the list.
Connected communities are the backbones of resilience. Building projects must look beyond their site boundaries and work with their neighbors in new ways. While community engagement is often required on large development projects, it will be a new endeavor for either single building new construction or existing building operations projects. Therefore, our rating system will include a clear step-by-step process to help projects identify and engage stakeholders—the people who will live or work within their boundaries and the people who live nearby, including disadvantaged and vulnerable populations that may be harder to reach. This will facilitate increased social connectedness while enabling communities to identify current threats, shared vision, and opportunities for resilience through collaboration.
Many of the strategies that support resilience result in other benefits at the same time. For example, the answers to minimizing the impact of downed power lines, destroyed water pipes, or crumbled roads that result from earthquakes or major storms might involve everything from connecting communities with bike lanes, installing rainwater capture systems, creating training programs for building operators to serve as first responders, installing solar panels, renovating buildings, creating community gardens, developing programs to support the elderly or at-risk youth, or throwing parties so neighbors can connect. Each of these efforts can contribute to other LA2050 goals, not only in the LIVE category but also in the CONNECT, LEARN, CREATE and PLAY categories as well. In fact, the LA2050 goals and associated metrics map seamlessly with resilience. The LA Resilience Rating System will help building projects and their communities work together to prepare for emergencies in ways that create better, healthier, more connected places for all.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project.
The success of our project can be measured by:
• The development of a complete Los Angeles Resilience Rating System (version 1) by September, 2015 • The development of effective, quantifiable metrics for resilience for both physical and social systems in the built environment • The successful launch of a pilot version of the program at Greenbuild in November, 2015 in Los Angeles • The number of applications for potential pilot projects that we receive • The number of people, square footage of building space, and acres of land covered by LA Resilience Rating System projects after 5 years • The number of interns and volunteers with expanded knowledge related to resilience • The number of other cities and programs that reference our system
What two lessons have informed your solution or project?
FEMA estimates that $1 in pre-disaster preparedness could save society $4 on post-disaster recovery. Disaster preparedness is cost effective, but can be hard to fund when it is seen as competing with other priorities. Where resources are constrained, as they are on most building projects, it is critical that we demonstrate the direct benefits of resilience strategies. The LA Resilience Rating System will give LA building projects a pathway to get the most out of investments in preparedness. The rating system will provide specific, realistic and cost-effective guidance on developing emergency response plans and processes, as well as fortifying the social and economic fabric of the community, both within and surrounding the project. Our rating system will be flexible, scalable, and designed with sufficient technical rigor to provide actionable direction to projects. Our program must be realistic and achievable, while at the same time moving the needle in measurable ways toward resilience.
Voluntary, market-driven tools can change the world. Both the USGBC and Enterprise have developed green building certifications that have helped their projects become measurably healthier, more efficient and more sustainable. The key ingredients of such tools are clear goals, quantifiable performance metrics, challenging but realistic strategies and targets, and third party certification and recognition. As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Successful rating systems not only quantify key metrics, they train people to use them and reward them for doing so. Our Rating System will reference existing efforts that are already underway around resilience to create a seamless roadmap for LA projects to find the most appropriate strategies for both physical and social resilience. Our system may work as either as a stand-alone certification or as a fully-integrated overlay to existing programs such as LEED or EGC.
Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.
The core LA Resilience Rating System will be developed over a one-year period according to the following schedule:
Quarter 1 Team Formation, Convene Advisory Committee Research existing best practices, programs and standards Survey test case projects #1
Quarter 2 Conduct 3 full-day workshops: Workshop #1: Goals and Structure Workshop #2: Metrics and Targets Workshop #3: Processes and Strategies Survey test case projects #2 Rating System Structure Development Stakeholder Outreach Process Development
Quarter 3 Convene Advisory Committee Strategy, Metric & Calculations Development Survey Test Case Projects #3 Draft Rating System to Advisory Committee & Stakeholders Alignment with Other Systems & Tools
Quarter 4 Draft Rating System to Advisory Committee & Stakeholders Revise Rating System Revised Rating System to Advisory Committee & Stakeholders
November, 2015 Present Rating System at Greenbuild 2015 in Los Angeles (30,000 attendees)
The development of the rating system can be successful within the budget and time constraints of this funding opportunity. Later phases of the project will include creating the foundation for providing third party certification, developing a business model to make this process self sustaining, and development of a web-based tool to provide real-time geographic-based risk assessment tools and customized sets of strategies for different project types and locations. These phases will require additional funding and partnerships. However, even without this additional funding, the LA Resilience Rating System will be a valuable resource for the region, and for complementary tools such as LEED and ERC.
Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?
Emergency planning is not a sexy topic. Part of the reason that we are not prepared is that people try not to think about, much less plan for, worst-case scenarios. When resources are scarce, resilience will have to compete with other priorities for investment. Green building again provides a good model here. Before the emergence of green building rating systems like LEED or Enterprise Green Communities, it was typically hard to persuade building owners to choose more environmentally responsible approaches when all of the benefits appeared to be external to the project. By helping to articulate not only the environmental benefits but also the tangible benefits to the project (such as cost savings, healthier occupants, or improved public relations), rating systems helped change the conversation. A resilience rating system can do the same. Rather than using fear, guilt or a list of “shoulds,” the LA Resilience Rating System must articulate the many co-benefits of resilience strategies and bundle them in a way that enables market recognition at the same time as verifiable performance. In other words, we can shift the conversation from what we don’t want (disaster) to what we do want (safety, health, connection, resilience), and help people respond from a place of hope, creativity and vision.
Resilience is inherently complex, ranging across scales and disciplines and stakeholders, and meaning different things to different people. The goal of LA Resilience Rating System is to provide project teams with a well-defined pathway through the complexity and toward strategic action. The System must provide a clear, step-by-step process that is manageable within the real world constraints of schedule and budget. Similarly, the process for developing the System must be well-defined. Our skilled facilitators will leverage well-designed collaborative sessions and real-world examples to create a Rating System that is both grounded and transformative.
What resources does your project need?
- Network/relationship support
- Money (financial capital)
- Volunteers/staff (human capital)
- Publicity/awareness (social capital)
- Community outreach