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    LEED Green Building Certification Allows Food Bank to Serve More San Diegans in Need

    Photo courtesy of San Diego Green Building Council
    GAP team members completed an energy audit at the San Diego Food Bank. The team inspected equipment, documented usage and recommended energy measures based on the audit findings. In this photo, the team is inspecting the roof top mechanical units to gather equipment data.

    Written by Erin Coller

    The San Diego Green Building Council has played a leading role in creating green buildings and sustainable infrastructure throughout San Diego, and the organization is now focusing on helping other nonprofits save money and energy.

    To learn more about the San Diego Green Building Council’s Green Assistance Program and how to get involved with green building design and local sustainability projects, visit

    The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank is on its way to being the greenest food bank in the country, thanks to the efforts of the San Diego Green Building Council. The two nonprofits recently collaborated to achieve a nationally recognized green building certification, known as LEED.

    On March 30, the San Diego Green Building Council officially announced the certification of San Diego Food Bank as a LEED Gold facility. As a result of the savings achieved through this effort, the San Diego Food Bank estimates that it will be able to serve an additional 875,000 meals annually to San Diegans in need.

    Photo courtesy of SDGBC
    Photo courtesy of SDGBC
    Members of the GAP team perform a site audit to better understand the various technologies located at the Food Bank. The team learned about the 350-kilowatt solar array on the roof and how this supplies over 100 percent of the electricity demand for the building operations.

    Under the San Diego Green Building Council’s Green Assistance Program (GAP), made possible by partner San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), building industry volunteers worked closely with facilities staff at the San Diego Food Bank to achieve green building certification for ongoing operations and maintenance.

    The certification, known as LEED v4, provides facilities with a checklist of robust measures that they must take to decrease their water, energy and waste, while incorporating more environmentally friendly operations. To date, the San Diego Food Bank is the first and only facility in San Diego County to achieve LEED v4 Gold status, and the only food distribution center to receive this certification in the U.S.

    Photo courtesy of SDGBC
    Photo courtesy of SDGBC
    During a waste audit at the San Diego Food Bank, the Green Building Council GAP team reviewed a 24-hour period of typical waste generated onsite. The team sorted and analyzed more than 2,000 pounds of waste.

    Through energy conservation and efficiency measures identified by the San Diego Green Building Council’s volunteer GAP team, along with third-party energy audits, the San Diego Food Bank implemented changes resulting in a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption from June 2015 through July 2016. The organization also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 71 percent. Some of the measures implemented include the installation of a 350-kilowatt solar photovoltaic array and LED lighting throughout the office and warehouse spaces. Water conservation projects included faucet aerators and urinal replacements, resulting in savings of more than 50,000 gallons per year, equivalent to the annual water usage of about three San Diego residential customers.

    “By funding the Green Assistance Program, SDG&E has given the San Diego Green Building Council an opportunity to provide sustainability and green building training to over 200 individuals,” said Paulina Lis, executive director of the San Diego Green Building Council.

    According to Lis, since its inception in 2010, the Green Assistance Program has impacted eight non-profits in the San Diego region, helping them achieve savings on energy, water and waste costs that contribute to city’s environmental goals as well as cost savings, which can be reinvested in the community.

    GAP provides a hands-on learning opportunity for individuals who seek a career in environmental and green building sectors. Participants learn by working on energy audits, waste audits, installation of water saving technologies, and much more.

    Photo courtesy of SDGBC
    Photo courtesy of SDGBC
    A hack-a-thon event was held early in the LEED project at the San Diego Food Bank in order to complete many of the prerequisite policies and plans. The GAP Team was given data gathered from the facility staff and broke out into groups to "hack" various LEED credits and prerequisites.

    The goal of GAP is to help other nonprofits lighten the burden of designing, constructing, or operating their buildings, so they can better focus on their mission—while the San Diego Green Building Council focuses on their own mission: to inspire, educate and collaborate within the community to transform the built environment toward true sustainability.

    Since 2010, more than 200 individuals have worked on eight non-profit facilities through GAP, including the San Diego Food Bank. Volunteers engaged in these projects have driven each phase of the of the project from LEED feasibility assessment, audits, and implementation of efficiency projects to LEED project documentation, correspondence and certification. Through implementation of efficiency strategies and operational process improvements, along with the San Diego Food Bank, these projects have all had a significant impact on water, waste and energy use reduction, allowing the nonprofits to have an even further wide-reaching impact on helping the community.