Showing how crisis can unite former adversaries, landlords and janitors announced a plan Monday to cut electricity use in major office buildings by 10% statewide--in part by having cleaning crews turn off lights in offices as they make their rounds.
Calling it the "largest commercial partnership ever for conservation," Gov. Gray Davis hailed the Lights Out plan as part of an overall statewide effort to reduce the threat of blackouts this summer.
"This is a tremendous partnership between labor and business," said Davis, speaking at a news conference in the shadow of the towering Wells Fargo Center in downtown Los Angeles, one of the many buildings participating in the program. "I challenge all commercial building owners up and down this state to do their part."
As part of the campaign, cleaning crews will be encouraged to turn off lights in unoccupied areas and after cleaning an area. They will also switch off other machinery, including computers, and will clean floors in teams, rather than be spread out over several floors at the same times, to reduce energy consumption.
In addition, building owners will be encouraged to seek state-financed incentives to offset the cost of installing energy-efficient lighting and so-called smart technology, such as motion sensors that shut off the lights when a room is not in use.
Though tenants will pay most of the cost as energy prices soar, landlords have a financial stake in the matter too, said Geoff Ely, president of the Building Owners and Managers Assn.
As energy use in a building decreases, so do the overall operational expenses of the building, making it more attractive to future tenants, he said.
"In this climate, that could be a significant benefit to the owner," Ely said.
Ely said the estimate of 10% savings is based on the experience of building owners who have implemented similar programs.
But if the potential savings are so great, why haven't all building owners and tenants begun turning off the lights? According to Ely, many owners and tenants simply aren't aware of the savings to be gained. He said the new cooperative approach between the landlords and Service Employees International Union is part of a broader effort to get more segments of the business community involved in conservation.
"We need to work with anyone and everyone who has a role in these buildings," Ely said. "The janitors indicated that they wanted to participate. This extends beyond management-labor issues and goes to the basic issue of the business climate in California."
The announcement comes one year after more than 8,000 janitors in Los Angeles County let office-building trash pile up during a three-week strike. But Mike Garcia, president of SEIU Local 1877, said he and the 25,000 union members who clean the major office properties throughout the state were proud to be part of the landmark program.
"The energy crisis threatens all of us, especially the low-wage workers," such as janitors, said Garcia, facing a sea of union members sporting green "Lights Out" T-shirts.
Noting that a year ago the union was just concluding its work stoppage, he said, "Today we stand in solidarity and full cooperation on our five-point plan."
The program calls for janitors and landlords throughout the state to work together to:
* Encourage energy-efficient cleaning practices, including switching more workers to a Sunday-to-Thursday workweek and establishing janitorial "lighting patrols" to shut off unneeded lights.
* Implement building-wide conservation programs, seeking input from janitors, engineers and other building staffers.
* Conduct conservation training seminars for janitors and engineers.
* Develop and implement a "comprehensive capital program," offering rebates and other state-funded incentives for retrofitting buildings with energy-efficient equipment.
* Use newsletters, e-mail and lobby signs to spread the word about the program to the 2 million office-building workers.
Ely said owners of about 250 million square feet of office space in the major markets statewide--including Arden Realty Inc., TrizecHahn Corp., Equity Office Properties Trust and MaguirePartners--have committed to the program. In many cases, work to upgrade energy efficiency has begun.
He said that represents a "very good chunk" of the estimated 600 million square feet of space targeted in the program.
Rob Maguire, managing partner of MaguirePartners, which owns the Wells Fargo Center, said the bottom-line issue is how the energy crisis will affect the state's ability to attract and retain business--a key concern of landlords statewide.
"At the moment, there is a concern that the state is not competitive," Maguire said.