Gallery: 1st LEED PARKING GARAGE: Santa Monica Civic Center


Eye-catching aesthetics and implementation of a bevy of green building practices have brought a new oxymoron into consideration in the form of the Santa Monica Civic Center parking structure. This building is on its way to becoming the first LEED certified parking garage in the United States, shifting the sustainability merits of LEED debate into impassioned overdrive with plenty of fuel fodder for both sides of the argument.

The building does meet or exceed many of the US Green Building Council’s LEED guidelines. A solar photovoltaic array on the roof provides shade for top level parking and on-site renewable energy. The materials used in construction were recycled and finished with low-VOC paints and finishes. The building envelope utilizes low-e glazing to decrease heating and cooling loads and the mechanicals are energy efficient. A storm-drain water-treatment system helps reduce tainted runoff from directly entering the hydrosphere and greywater harvesting provides for landscaping and on-site facilities.

The Santa Monica Civic Center garage provides 900 parking spaces throughout six above ground stories and 1 ½ below ground levels. Of those 900 spaces, 14 (or less than 2%) are devoted to electric vehicles with public electrical outlets. There’s also free bicycle storage available to “encourage alternate transportation modes.”

The design is from Moore Ruble Yudell Architects and Planners and James Mary O’Connor, AIA, principal with the firm, “is confident that his team had met both the aesthetic and sustainability challenges set forth by the city of Santa Monica to create this six-story solar-powered structure,” according to Environmental Design & Construction magazine.

The prospect of a parking garage attaining LEED has been called everything from a “commitment to sustainability” to a “deliciously silly story.” Somewhere in between those perspectives lies the quandary of this building. Most of us would agree that if we are going to continue to build parking structures, they should be as low impact as possible. However, the question that remains is how does shining the LEED light on a structure that claims its main purpose as housing gas-powered vehicles play into the green building picture?

+ Moore Ruble Yudell Architects and Planners
+ Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Structure
+ A Civic Gateway at ArchNewsNow

Via Jetson Green


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  1. Suri October 19, 2012 at 12:18 am

    Great Photo….

    Who took the Night photo. Would like to use it for our Parking Garage Cleaning Web Site. May I ask if we can use it?

  2. empresschow June 11, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    Anyone heard of green-washing? Also embodied energy? THESE issues are essential to understand when viewing claims on sustainability.

    I think all the commentary is very good to highlight to internet audiences out there about the questions and concerns that are negotiated in urban design and public policy. The architect often is designated a problem solver– and the problem is defined by the client (governmental agencies in this case). I agree with sustainablethisthat’s comments that SOME activists are complainers that don’t try to find realistic solutions to environmental problems. Next time use the mantra: “We are doing the best that we can.”

    Personally, I like the parking garage in design sensibility as well as it’s attempt to bridge the conflict between the real vs. the ideal. Look for my architecture show that will showcase the REAL ISSUES about design.
    LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

  3. sustainablethisthat July 1, 2008 at 4:11 am

    Bleh, at least they are making efforts to use alternative forms of energy. Activists are complainers. What the uninformed doesn\’t know, a Toyota Prius makes more environmental damage than a Land Rover SUV. Sustainable eco-friendly greeny buzzwords aside, I visited the garage and I have to say, I do like its aesthetics. It makes Santa Monica look less trashy than it already is.

  4. MakeItRight June 10, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Hey TheGoodHuman! Your not that Good! You need to read the title. Civic Center Parking Structure. Its for the people that work for the city of Santa Monica. The visitors of Santa Monica have, well I don’t know, like 5 parking structures to choose from on 2nd Street. I live a block away form the structure too and I am proud to live in a City that is emphasizing sustainability as much as possible in this un-green society.

  5. Michael OConnell May 14, 2008 at 8:59 am

    I\’m an engineer for a company that makes photoluminescent exit signs. I visited this parking garage during Altbuild and put together the following information for the architects and engineers who speced this project.
    The City of Santa Monica is understandably proud of their new 6 story, $29 million LEED certified parking garage. The structure features photovoltaic roof panels, a storm drain treatment system, recycled construction materials, fluorescent lighting and energy efficient mechanical systems. To facilitate emergency egress there are 43 exit signs, 26 of which are LED [light emitting diode] models and 17 are radioactive tritium models.

    LED exit signs are considered hazardous and controlled by the EPA because they contain heavy metals [i.e. nickel, cadmium & mercury] in their circuit boards and battery packs. Also considered hazardous, Radioactive exit signs contain between 7 – 12 curries of radioactivity and are controlled by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Overall, the exit signs in the Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Structure contain over 4 pounds of battery/circuit board materials and about 170 curries of radioactivity.

    By code, LED exit signs must be illuminated 24×7 and typically they use around 5 watts of power. Although the primary power source for the Civic Center Parking Garage exit signs is solar, in non-solar situations each LED exit sign annually uses 43 kwh which the EPA associates with over 60 pounds of greenhouse gasses. Because of their radioactive liability, radioactive exit signs are banned in all US Department of Defense facilities, most schools and many corporations.

    A sustainable exit sign option is to use non-electric, non-radioactive ‘glow-in-the-dark’ photoluminescent exit signs. Nationally used in thousands of buildings and many LEED projects, high quality photoluminescent exit signs are approved by the Santa Monica Fire Marshal, meet all building codes and are made of recycled aluminum and non-toxic strontium oxide aluminate. They are activated by fluorescent lighting and require minimal attention over their 25+ year life since they have no batteries, lamps or radioactive tubes to replace and dispose of.

    Additionally, photoluminescent exit signs are less expensive to install and operate/maintain than LED and radioactive exit signs. Typical installation savings average $50 – $100 and operations/maintenance savings average $10 – $20 per year. On this project, by installing photoluminescent exit signs, the City of Santa Monica could have saved $3500 in capital costs and around $500/year in recurring operations/maintenance costs. Contact me at to discuss.

  6. artzitech April 25, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Potato, po-tah-to.

    I hate to quibble but this is the likely the second parking structure to be LEED certified. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s parking deck in Detrioit Michigan was certified a year piror to the Santa Monica garage.

  7. onomiko April 16, 2008 at 2:04 am

    I, too, live within walking distance of this facility and am quite pleased that my city is giving every new structure it commits funds to a serious eye towards environmental impact. No, we don’t want more support for fossil-fuel burning auto use in the world but guess what, it’s needed. That structure is ONE BLOCK from the major downtown shopping area–an area that is currently being extended to join the Civic Center where the garage is located. Yep, there are many sides to every story but I, for one, commend my city planners and their use of my tax dollars to thoughtfully fulfill the needs of a city that’s growing insanely fast and has many more commuters who drive the freeways in to work than are able to live locally. And isn’t park-and-ride a step in the right direction?

    *feel free to write*

  8. maruko321 April 15, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    It’s a nice lot, but basically it’ll cost you $8 to park in it. Also sad to say even though there are 14 electric car spots, they aren’t designated or reservered so it’s always filled with normal cars for people that want to park closer to the entrance. So sad to say if you have an electric car, you can rarely park in any of the charging spots.

  9. cpine April 15, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Thank you, DYK, for some thought. LEED is a niche standard for architects and builders, not a universal cure for wasteful socio-economic practices. Mr./Ms. GoodHuman, I live in Torrance, and when I go to Santa Monica, I can\\\’t get there by bike, or in a timely manner by public transit (no Subway to the Sea yet, and way too many bus transfers or too few express bus trips between us to make it practical). So, the City used the land it has available without displacing other uses through eminent domain, to accomodate freeway travelers near the terminus of the 10 (aka \\\”Santa Monica\\\” or \\\”San Bernadino\\\” depending on what direction your headed) Freeway. So, support the parking structure, AND more \\\”free\\\” electric hybrid shuttlebuses circulating to \\\”near anything that you would need to park for\\\”, like 3rd St. Promenade, Montana Ave, the Wilshire Corridor to Westwood — and, oh yeah, The BEACH, next to that big blue wet thing that seems to attract people. And, excuse me, but the Peoples Republic of Santa Monica is among the most pedestrian/cyclist freindly of beach towns in SoCal. Cities are not like software or ipods, that can be discarded in favor of the next best thing. Urban planning is necessarily incremental, political, occasionally stochastic. This garage is actually very forward-thinking, within type. Some day, when the mass transist system gets upgraded substantially, this site will be a prime place for a transit center on par with a Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal (assuming the West Side continues to be the Navel of the World it thinks it is).

    And why is Mr. Fink\\\’s ad posted in a blog, instead of in the side panel, where it belongs?

  10. dyk April 15, 2008 at 5:53 am

    It is amazing to see how green architecture can be implemented, and now even a parking structure. This civic center parking lot in Santa Monica, California is a self proclaimed oxymoron. The practices and systems implemented into this parking structure are impressive: \”a solar photovoltaic array on the roof,\” recycled materials, \”low-e glazing,\” and \”a storm-drain water-treatment system.\” This parking lot seems to be \”greener\” than many other buildings that try to be more ecological. Not only are the environmental achievements impressive but the aesthetics of the building as well. Moore Ruble Yudell Architects and Planners and James Mary O\’Conner did an amazing job on a project that could have easily become like many other mundane parking structures. If only other cities could strive to have standards of aesthetics and sustainability on parking structures and other elements of the built environment, this world would be heading towards a better place. I can understand your concern for this structure being an oxymoron being that \”less than 2%\” of the 900 parking spaces provide electrical outlets for electric vehicles. But the fact that main stream society has not switched over to electric cars do have to be taken into consideration. I am sure as society starts to switch over to electric cars, electrical outlets can be installed not only here but in other parking structures as well. It is also encouraging to see that there is free bicycle storage to promote alternate modes of transportation for the automobile. You posed the question of how a LEED recognized building that serves gas-powered vehicles be considered green. I believe that LEED is a standard used to measure the sustainable qualities of a building and not what specifically take place in it. Are homes that are considered sustainable and green going to be not considered as such if the people inside the house are not environmentally conscious as they waste resources and energy? Society should take any steps that will help the environment even if the means are through a building since so many of us do not practice a green lifestyle. With more buildings like this, maybe it can make up for the people\’s shortcoming until the population is ready to change their lifestyle.

  11. Jac April 14, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    To The GoodHuman: That’s rather disappointing. Maybe they should move this idea where it’s really needed. I’ve been to Texas just this winter…every building has their own carpark, which is huge. Texas need more trees, and i dun mean crop fields.

  12. TheGoodHuman April 14, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    I live right down the street from it – and this is the epitome of an oxymoron. A “green’ parking garage that is nowhere near anything that you would need to park for. It is not near our shopping or public transportation centers, but rather set up right next to the freeway in an area of town used only by city hall. Santa Monica does not have a parking problem that needs to be solved; rather, it’s a car problem and they have no interest in making the city more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists. They would rather build a parking garage that doesn’t serve the general population of people that come here to visit. It’s quite silly, actually.

  13. Marc Fink April 14, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Bendheim Wall Systems is proud to have supplied the striking channel glass seen glowing on Moore Ruble Yudell’s parking garage in Santa Monica. The first LEED parking garage in the country, designed by James Mary O’Connor, recently won a Glass Association of North America (GANA) Design in Glass Award 2007 for Tempered Glass. The Prismasolar pyramidal glass planks are a texture proprietary to Lamberts, the manufacturer of the LINIT brand of channel glass, and all glass from Lamberts is made from a high percentage of recycled post-consumer content. Images of this and other award-winning projects – museums, higher education buildings, and libraries – designed by leading architecture firms including Steven Holl Architects, Polshek Partnership, Pelli Clarke Pelli, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro can be seen on Bendheim Wall’s web site. Please call or write me with any questions you have about using LINIT channel glass to enhance your commercial projects, thank you.

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