Designers Learn from Nature to Achieve a Platinum-Perfect Building

Dec. 30, 2008

LOS ANGELES /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ - The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) awarded its highest level of recognition, LEED® Platinum certification, to the Conference Center at the newly re-opened TreePeople Center for Community Forestry.

TreePeople, an environmental nonprofit, has served the Los Angeles region for 35 years with the goal of "helping nature heal our cities." The state-of-the-art Conference Center provides a gathering place for local, national, and international leaders to create healthy, sustainable cities.

The Conference Center is the focal point for the Center for Community Forestry, a four-acre environmental educational campus located in L.A.'s Coldwater Canyon Park. Furthering TreePeople's mission to provide environmental and watershed education to the public, the Conference Center utilizes natural principles to minimize the building's need for imported heating, cooling, energy and water.

Andy Lipkis, TreePeople founder and president explains, "In the forest, trees mitigate extreme temperatures by providing sun and wind protection. They capture water and slowly restore it to the water table, thereby preventing floods and filtering out pollution. The design of the Conference Center and the water reclamation systems throughout our entire campus are informed by these natural processes."

The building is oriented to make the best use of the sun and prevailing winds. Concrete walls act both as structure and as a natural temperature control method, absorbing the day's heat from the sun and releasing it at night. All rainwater on the site is captured through an underground drainage network, stored in a 216,000-gallon underground cistern and reused in landscaping and as a fire-fighting resource.

The USGBC's LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. The Conference Center is the fourth Platinum-certified building in Los Angeles.

"This Center was conceived prior to the existence of the USGBC LEED Rating System," says George Minardos, president of Minardos Group, the Construction Manager for the Conference Center as well as the entire campus. "TreePeople's mission was to build the most sustainable project in Los Angeles, so adapting to a sustainable rating system like LEED was a natural process and in alignment with the project mission."

The Conference Center was designed by the Los Angeles-based architecture firm, Marmol Radziner and Associates. Leo Marmol, FAIA, principal of the firm adds, "There is a tremendous amount of complexity involved in creating a simple building that mimics nature while providing modern comforts. The project involved numerous engineers and design consultants, and it took careful leadership to keep such a large team of people moving together in the same direction."

In addition to the Conference Center, facilities at the newly re-opened TreePeople Center for Community Forestry include: The La Kretz Urban Watershed Garden, offering hands-on exhibits to teach water harvesting and conservation, designed by landscape architect Mia Lehrer & Associates; The S. Mark Taper Foundation Environmental Learning Center, a training classroom for students and adults, designed by Carlos Madrid III of AECOM (formerly DMJM Design); and the W. M. Keck Foundation Nursery, for growing native plants to restore damaged local watersheds.

About TreePeople
The mission of TreePeople is to inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment-making it safe, healthy, fun and sustainable- and to share the results as a model for the world.

About Minardos Group
Santa Monica-based Minardos Group has been building award-winning projects in the Los Angeles area for nearly two decades. The 30-person firm provides consulting, building, development and estate care services for sustainable and design-centered buildings. For more information about Minardos Group, visit

About Marmol Radziner and Associates
Marmol Radziner and Associates ( is an award-winning Los Angeles-based design-build firm that integrates architectural design with a full range of construction services. The firm's commitment to design excellence was rewarded with the honor of being named the American Institute of Architects California Council's 2004 Firm of the Year.

Source: TreePeople (

For additional information, contact Summer Vaughn, (310) 450-6900, or [email protected].

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