A beacon of sustainability 

Photos courtesy Sun Harbor Marina

It’s one thing to add some recycling bins to your office or install a programmable thermostat. It’s another to build more than 17,000 square feet of buildings and 100 boat slips with a mission of sustainability.

Sun Harbor Marina did just that. Located in the San Diego Harbor, the marina complex became the first marina to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. And what makes this feat even more impressive is that the project started in 2003 at a time when sustainable building – even in California – wasn’t as easy as it is now.

Much of the credit for the marina’s LEED certification and green vision goes to former managing partner Mary Lou LoPreste, who purchased Sun Harbor Marina and undertook a marina renovation project like none other.

Kathy OBrien, property manager, says LoPreste felt strongly about the environment and wanted to make sure she was doing whatever she could to preserve the environment and make it a healthier place – not just for today but for future generations.

LoPreste partnered with architect Caitlin Kelley and the green efforts began. The project was completed in March 2005 and the U.S. Green Building Council awarded LEED certification the following year.


Sun Harbor Marina is three buildings and 100 boat slips. Whenever possible, sustainable materials and green building practices have been used. Sun Harbor followed the LEED specifications, one of which is purchasing building materials locally.

One of the challenges at that time, OBrien says, was finding sustainable materials that were available locally or if they did exist, there weren’t multiple suppliers. “That has changed greatly,” she notes. “For several products, now there are more options. Now you can go to Home Depot.”

Some of the sustainable products used to construct Sun Harbor Marina include:
• VOC-free paints.
• Bamboo cabinetry.
• Recycled carpet.
• Rubber baseboards.
• Low-flow facets and toilets.

Also the glazing on the windows reflects the heat, keeping the heat out in the summer and the cool air out in the winter. The number of windows also provides plenty of natural light and eliminates the constant need for overhead lighting. When the lights are used, they automatically adjust to match the natural light, only getting brighter as it gets darker outside.

The facility’s thermostats are only active when someone is physically in the space, and office equipment shuts itself when not in use.

The marina has its own recycling center, and tenants – including yacht brokers, law offices and a restaurant – are encouraged to recycle. OBrien says many tenants came to Sun Harbor specifically because it is LEED certified (take note, developers).

A few additional pieces of advice from OBrien:
• Take advantage of all the resources that are available now. Jump on Google and search any item you want and chances are hundreds of resources will appear.
• Look to CFL light bulbs or LED lighting.
• Check the amount of recycled content in the carpet you’re installing.
• When having your HVAC system serviced, make sure proper filters are being used.
• For cabinetry, use sustainable materials, such as bamboo.
• Sun Harbor has slate and tile in the restrooms – easily available and sustainable materials.
• When looking for a physical location, consider your proximity to a bus stop or other mass transit options.
• Offer parking for bikes and a place to shower, making it easy for employees to bike to work.
• Take a look at the kinds of supplies you’re using: toilet paper, soaps, cleaning products. There are plenty of green options.

Finally, OBrien suggests talking to people who have green buildings and offices. Find out how they did it and visit their facilities. Some people think building green means having an ugly building, but Sun Harbor Marina is anything but ugly, and OBrien encourages people to take a look. “It doesn’t have to be ugly. You can be proud of the facility.”

And we offer a hearty Green Thumbs Up to Sun Harbor Marina for taking on green even at a time when green was a lighter shade than it is today. If Sun Harbor can go green, surely the rest of us can take a few more steps in the green direction.


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