The sustainable design solution used in the LAMTA Division 13 project that best exemplifies this kind of comprehensive decision-making process is the use of photovoltaic panels on the Garage and Maintenance Building. The panels will be located on the roof of both buildings, as well as along the prominent Cesar Chavez St façade and are important for a number of reasons. Initially thought of as a public-private partnership (PPP), during the course of design it became apparent that the best value to LA Metro would be to purchase and own the system outright, rather than lease it from a third-party. The payback for the first cost of approximately $1.9M for a 500 kW system was calculated at between 10 to 14 years at today’s energy costs. As energy cost’s rise, the payback time becomes even shorter, and the building is anticipated to operate for a minimum of 30 years.
In addition to providing on-site renewable energy, the panels along Cesar Chavez also serve to visually screen the parking garage from view, a requirement of the project. If PV panels were not used, money would have been spent on another screening material, so the effective cost of the panels was reduced by the cost of the traditional screening method required. The reliability of PV panels has increased in recent years, and the design industry’s ability to design and install them at optimal angles and locations has also matured.
There was very little concern about long-term effectiveness of this product, which gave the client a higher comfort level with which to make the choice to use this system. Although staff does not currently have procedures and equipment in place to maintain the panels, contracted maintenance was a viable solution that allowed employees to continue to operate in an efficient, functional manner. Finally, the visible photovoltaic panels are a sign to the public that the agency is conscious of and serious about environment issues and resource conservation. By utilizing life-cycle costing techniques combined with strong client leadership and a clear understanding of both project budget and staff resources, LA Metro made an informed decision on a sustainable design approach that will produce ongoing benefit for now and in the future.
Things to Remember
Sustainable design is most effective when it’s the result of informed decision-making that results in cost-effective solutions in projects. Sustainable, environmentally relevant design is not only economically sound, but fairly easy to accomplish with the right partners and by making the right decisions early in a project’s design phase. It is important that clients and designers perform rigorous and thoughtful analysis of ideas, and become well acquainted with a facility’s staff and individual project needs. Each project will be different from the next, but, with strong, committed leadership, every project can become a point of pride that will benefit the agency and community for years to come.