Saturday, March 26, 2016
How South Bay businesses are using a tech game to be more energy efficient

By Sandy Mazza, Daily Breeze

Being “green” can be overwhelming for even the most conscientious citizens.

There are so many options: replacing outdated energy-sucking equipment, managing heating and cooling systems, solar-reflective roofing, composting. You can even generate your own energy with your trash, if you’re so inclined.

Recognizing missed environmentally friendly opportunities, the South Bay Council of Governments launched a program to prioritize the options and create competition to be the region’s most efficient business in the South Bay Cities Green Building Challenge. It’s the first Southern California agency to embark on the program, which uses software created by a Chicago-based technology startup, Green Per Square Foot, to assign points for more than 70 newly adopted green measures.

“Often, people are so busy running their business that they can’t keep up,” said Renee Daigneault, manager of the Green Building Challenge, which runs from September 2015 through the end of August 2016. “The quickest, easiest thing to look at is upgrading lighting. If they bought any new equipment in the past year, there are rebates from the gas company they can take advantage of, and that’s particularly true for restaurants.”

So far, about 100 businesses have signed on to the challenge. It assigns points for energy-saving victories (retrofitting lighting fixtures and installing controls to turn off lights when not used gets you 300 points). Top point-getters have between 1,800 and 3,150 so far, said Daigneault. The winners will be recognized at a Sept. 28 awards event.

Beach Cities Health District, an agency that promotes health and disease-prevention for residents in South Bay’s beach cities, joined the Green Building Challenge to get new employees up-to-speed and learn the latest energy-saving opportunities, said CEO Susan Burden.

“We’ve had an internal green program for many years here but, when we started this challenge, it gave us a refresh,” Burden said. “We’ve already been printing double-sided paper and little things like that. But we found ways to recycle junk mail at home, to encourage employees on the payroll system to go paperless, and coordinated with the IT department to turn off computers at night.

“We just needed a refocusing because we’re so scattered between life and work, this helped us focus again.”

9Round kickboxing fitness center in Torrance stopped selling bottled water to conserve plastic, said owner Dan Hawkins.

“I installed a water filtration system for people to bring their own bottles and refill. To me, that’s a huge one,” Hawkins said. “It costs me because I have to pay for the service, but it saves so many plastic bottles.”

He got cost savings when he replaced the gym’s hallogen light bulbs with LED bulbs, he said, and also now uses nontoxic, biodegradable cleaning products.

Cities and businesses that participate aren’t just interested in the cost savings and rebates offered by utility companies, said Daigneault.

“Companies are very aware of sustainability and they’re interested in getting positive recognition,” she said. “If they had any challenges with new lighting or other programs, we help. And our board is made up of all the mayors of the South Bay cities, so we report back to the board and they get recognition.”

Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes already has electric vehicle charging stations, composting and other green amenities but, since joining this challenge, they added hardware and software to monitor energy usage, educated on-site properties about environmental initiatives, and retrofitted heating and cooling systems, said Director of Engineering Roye Mbarah.

Most of the sustainability initiatives at Pediatric Therapy Network in Torrance revolve around educating tenants about ways to save energy, said Facility Manager Ryan Betts. They are now planning to tint office windows to save on cooling costs. A utility company program provides the tinting free of charge.

“The Green Building Challenge was a lot of affirmation that we were on the right track toward conservation,” said Betts. “A lot of what we do is pass on information to renters and employees about water conservation.”

Green Building Challenge is funded by Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Co., Golden State Water Company, and The Energy Network.

Businesses interested in participating can sign up at, via email at, or by calling 310-371-7222.

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