USGBC-LA and LA Cleantech Incubator create green building competition

The Sustainable Cities Tech Challenge will award one overall challenge winner and three companies for three categories.


The Municipal Green Building Conference and Expo (MGBCE) returns for its 17th year on April 19 in Downey, California. This gathering of sustainability and green building advocates within both the public and private sectors in Southern California draws attendees from 88 Southern California-area municipalities, all of which are striving to integrate sustainability into municipal action.

Hosted annually by the Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), Los Angeles, and the U.S. Green Building Council-LA chapter (USGBC-LA), this year’s theme is “Innovative Cities Leading the Way to a Sustainable Future,” which both keynote presenters will address through their lenses of transportation and countywide planning, as will a new challenge for startup companies organized by USGBC-LA and the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). The no cost event runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the SoCalGas Energy Resource Center (ERC) in Downey. Registration is open now.

Extending the idea of innovation leading the way, USGBC-LA and LACI are using this year’s event to debut a global startup competition in the green building industry. The mixer that begins 4:30 p.m. will introduce the Sustainable Cities Tech Challenge to attendees and award one overall challenge winner, plus three companies per each category: smart infrastructure, energy and water efficiency and waste.

After the day’s official programming ends, the judging and presentation of the Sustainable Cities Tech Challenge will ensue. The three categories will break down by the following:

  • Smart infrastructure: connecting buildings, internet of things devices, demand response and energy storage.
  • Energy and water efficiency: lighting, HVAC, building control systems, smart irrigation, plug load monitoring and building envelope.
  • Waste: textile recycling, food waste, waste-to-energy and waste water.

“At USGBC-LA, we know that climate action is going to happen and impact locally. It will be local cities, local businesses and nonprofits who are making the region better through policy and civic engagement,” Dominique Hargreaves, USGBC-LA executive director, says. “MGBCE will bring together the technology-makers, policy makers and design professionals to continue to build the culture of sustainability in Southern California.”

Challenge finalists will receive exhibit space and inclusion in the conference at no cost, as well as the chance to win $15,000 as the overall challenge winner, $3,000 per category winner, in-kind support from sponsors or partners and the opportunity for membership to LACI’s business incubation program, access to the La Kretz Innovation Campus and Advanced Prototyping Center. Winners will also receive pitch prep and mentorship from LACI’s executives in residence team leading up the conference.

“Transforming markets by working with partners like USGBC-LA is key to LACI's mission of creating an inclusive, green economy,” Amanda Sabicer, LACI senior vice president, says. “Our goal is to help unlock innovation by identifying promising startups with compelling energy efficiency technologies that can be deployed to create sustainable, smart cities everywhere.”

Morning keynote speaker Seleta J. Reynolds, general manager of the LA Department of Transportation (LADOT), will launch the day with her speech Drones, Loops and Robotaxis: A Sustainable City Roadmap to Our Hyper-Uber Future.

Appointed by the administration of Mayor Eric Garcetti, she is responsible for implementing Great Streets for Los Angeles, a plan to reduce traffic fatalities, double the number of people riding bikes and expand access to integrated transportation choices for Angelenos and the region. She has advised transportation technology companies like WalkScore, Seattle, contributed to the state-of-the-practice as an Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals board member and serves as the president of the National Association for City Transportation Officials.

During lunch, keynote speaker Gary Gero, chief sustainability officer for Los Angeles County, will speak to the importance of regional approaches and local leadership in addressing our sustainability challenges. He was recently appointed to be the first chief sustainability officer for the county where his duties include creating a countywide sustainability plan that addresses regional environmental, economic and social justice issues.

MGBCE’s programming is designed to address solutions at the building, city and regional scale for city administrators as they seek ways to forge an inclusive path forward.