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.

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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?

Via Jetson Green