100% Sustainable: Strategies for 2050 renewable energy, local water, and ecosystem health in Los Angeles

Project Summary

The greater Los Angeles region holds nearly half of the state’s population and makes up the third largest metropolitan economy in the world. The effort put forward in these projects is two-fold: First, to evaluate the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge goals to achieve 100% renewable energy, 100% locally sourced water, and enhanced ecosystem and human health for Los Angeles County by 2050, and second, to demonstrate how two distinctly contrasted urban growth scenarios, urban sprawl versus more dense growth around existing population centers and transit nodes, will change the sustainable future of Los Angeles using the Wilshire Corridor as a case-study.

This study provides foundational work that presents the County’s energy, water, and ecosystem health challenges within LA’s specific context. Here the Now Institute offers a first-round assessment that defines the scope of the task at hand; it will evolve as research develops and is subject to refutation and reevaluation. The purpose of this initial assessment is not to advocate for a particular answer, but to provide a platform upon which competing research and multiple approaches can cross-pollinate, evolve, and develop - eventually catalyzing into a fully built-out implementation strategy.

Research Team

Thom Mayne
Architecture & Urban Design, School of the Arts & Architecture

Eui-Sung Yi
Architecture & Urban Design, School of the Arts & Architecture

Annie Eby
The Now Institute, UCLA Supra Studio

Ryan Doyle
The Now Institute, UCLA Supra Studio

Beyza Paksoy
The Now Institute, UCLA Supra Studio

Cagdas Delen
The Now Institute, UCLA Supra Studio

Lily Bakshi
The Now Institute, UCLA Supra Studio

Julie LeRenard
The Now Institute, UCLA Supra Studio

Other Collaborators

Morphosis Architects

Progress and Results

The Now Institute's macroscopic analysis of alternative pathways for reaching the Sustainable LA goals provided a broad overview of the state of energy, water, and ecosystem health today and a first glance at some of the possibilities for reaching those goals by 2050. Not surprisingly, a combination of increased public transit ridership combined with electrified transportation would significatnly reduce energy demand. Independently, the research showed that a 30% improvement in building energy efficiency will reduce energy demand by 25%, while covering all compatible rooftops in LA County with solar panels would increase the renewable energy supply by 25%. With regard to water, they found that a transition to native landscaping in residential areas would reduce water consumption by 20%, and that capturing only one more inch of the County's annual rainfall could result in a 10% increase in local water supply. For ecosystem and human health, the study showed that the County needs to increase the number of parks by 2.5 to provide everybody 1/4 mile access. They also suggest more of the County's non-urbanized land should be protected, and that future development should occur in already developed areas, which seques nicely into the second focus of their study - future growth scenarios for the County.

The team analyzed a number of potential growth scenarios for LA County to critically think about where the County might absorb 1.5 million more people in a sustainable way by 2050. They opted to focus on a scenario that accommodated projected growth, while maintaining the County’s neighborhood integrity over the largest area feasible. They found that by densifying just 1% of the County along the Wilshire Corridor, 99% of LA’s classic urban texture and natural landscape can be perserved. This scenario would encourage public transit use, reduce per capita energy and water use, and stop urban develop from encroaching upon the remaining natural landscapes in the County.

Other Information of Interest