The Golden State has always been one of the leading faces of environmental conservation, with a stringent building standards code that urges less energy usage, fewer fossil fuels, and better insulation.
“We’re pretty much believers that climate change is a big issue,” says Thomas Cox, CEO and managing partner at Los Angeles-based TCA Architects.
Now, the state's attention is fixed on water conservation and quality. The infrequent rain often brings a bevy of pollution problems, particularly in urban projects.
The first flush of rain after a long period of dryness washes pollutants and residue into storm drains, which eventually wash into the ocean. Suburban properties have to hold water on site for a period of time, but the high density among urban environments makes that requirement difficult.
TCA Architects deal with plenty of codes and restrictions requiring owners to hold water on site for the first hour of rain, leading into a filtration system before it can be released. It certainly affects how projects are put together, as the filtration system cuts into the livable square footage of space.
“Any good benefit has constraints,” TCA’s Cox adds. “We have to be very creative. We’re using landscape primarily for the first filter for a lot of pollutions. It means we need more landscape, landscape on top of concrete podiums, or roof decks, and around the perimeter of a project.”
Beyond water-quality control, California architects are also dealing with laws that encourage transit-oriented development, and the reduction of fossil fuels. In some areas like San Francisco, bicycle codes are now in place requiring a certain amount of storage on site. “In San Francisco, we have to have one bicycle per resident in your plan,” Cox says. “We’re seeing a dramatic reduction in parking allocation in our projects.”
The reduction of parking is causing another phenomenon—many cities that required two spaces per unit are now down to 1.5. It’s a small aspect of a larger long-range plan in many municipalities, to help prevent today’s severe weather from growing more severe by reducing harmful emissions.
“Weather is something we have no control over. We can make a choice to try and work with it and to minimize the severe impacts, or to ignore it and let it have its way with us,” says Cox. “Our choice as architects and developers, and city officials, is to not let the weather have its way with us."
-Linsey Isaacs is an assistant editor with Multifamily Executive magazine. Follow her on twitter @LinseyI to continue this conversation.