My ‘Natural’ Path into a Green Building Career

Center of Constancia del Rosario, Oaxaca

Born and raised in Los Angeles, I spend most of my time outdoors. But my love for the environment began outside of the city, mile by mile, for thousands of miles, in three-day trips that ended in the neighboring hometowns of my parents in Oaxaca, Mexico. Unknowingly, I was fortunate to spend winter breaks taking family trips traveling through different landscapes of the Southwestern states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas to cut across down through Northern Mexico to Oaxaca. It was not only the natural environments that caught my attention, but the urbanization of such places, such as the beautiful city of Las Cruces with a background of the Organ Mountains and the city that sits on top Lake Texcoco basin, Mexico City.

In Los Angeles my love for the outdoors only grew. One of the biggest reasons was the time I spent at the Los Angeles Zoo. I had taken many field trips to the zoo growing up but during high school I had the opportunity to take classes there. Located across the street from it was the Zoo Magnet where I spent my high school years. There I was able to experience nature in a different form. I learned to appreciate the importance of wildlife, and it was the first place I learned about green building, from the green roof in the Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles (LAIR) exhibit. From the early scavenger hunts to the animal husbandry classes, the Los Angeles Zoo played a huge role in my decision to enter Environmental Studies at San Jose State University (SJSU).

At SJSU I followed what I enjoyed by deciding to study Environmental Studies with a minor in Green Building and Energy Policy. I learned how big of a role the built environment and energy have in our lives, as well as the impacts that come with it. Focused on green building, I learned the important impacts we can make with sustainable design and building.

I learned that there are many different approaches to sustainable building such as the Midori Haus in Santa Cruz, the Tah Mah Lah in Portola Valley, or the Sol Lux Alpha in San Francisco. The Midori Haus, a classic California bungalow, was retrofitted to meet the Passive House international building standards and has achieved the Santa Cruz Green Building Award, Thousand Home Challenge, Passive House Certification, and Bay Friendly Landscape Certification. The Tah Mah Lah showcases a holistic approach from its inception, achieving LEED Platinum, Living Building Challenge, National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat and many more achievements. The Sol Lux Alpha, a luxury mid-rise condo building, with highly efficient MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) systems and architectural design was the first Passive House certified multi-unit nanogrid development in the US. I learned the importance of technology and innovation which can have a major upside to improving energy usage, consumption, and generation as well as the upside in the buildings we spend 90% of our time in. Not only can we make a difference where we live, work, and play, but in every other aspect of our lives. We are in an important time where our individual actions create a global impact — we can make a positive impact.

Back in Los Angeles I have been focused on learning more and applying my knowledge as much as possible.  As a member of the USGBC-LA Green Building Corps, I continue to learn about the endless possibilities that come with sustainability. 

About the Author

Michael ZuritaMichael Zurita is a young professional currently working as subcontractor in construction logistics and transportation as well as excavation and demolition. His interests are in renewable energies, real estate development, architecture, artificial intelligence, technology, and waste management. Michael has been volunteering with USGBC-LA’s Green Building Corps since September 2020. He is seeking networking and new career opportunities.

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