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Sustaining Designed-In Sustainability

Design Firm Owner to Address Issue at Feb. 7 Breakfast

January 31, 2008 :: No. 144

Designing and constructing a building to be green and sustainable doesn’t always help very much … but not because it isn’t a good idea.

“The people who move into a building, whether it is a residential or a business building, often undo what was designed into the building to save power, water, maintenance, all of that. We have to find a way to keep a sustainability building green and sustainable,” said Caecilia Gotama, the principle of Gotama Building Engineers Inc. in Marina del Rey and a Cal State Fullerton graduate (B.S. engineering-mechanical ‘82, M.S. engineering- mechanical ‘87).

Gotama is the keynote speaker at the Feb. 7 Technology Breakfast sponsored by the CSUF College of Engineering and Computer Science. At the 7:30 a.m. gathering at the Fullerton Marriott, she will present “Sustaining Sustainability: What Happens After a Sustainable Building Handover.”

“For example, we design the building; the builder approves it, and it is built with California-native plants, which use far less water and take far less maintenance,” Gotama explained. “Then we come back a year later and the residents or maintenance people have replaced the native plants with lush, water-hungry, high-maintenance vegetation. We will place an awning over a key area to keep it cool so the building requires less air conditioning, then the awning will be taken down and the air conditioning has to run more.

“The goal now is persuading the people who use the building, and those who maintain the building, to understand and buy into why the building was designed as it was,” she said. “In the public sector, that is already happening more and more, like on university campuses. Not so much in the private sector, where the interest leans more toward a quick turnover. That can mean giving tenants what they’re used to rather than what actually works best.”

It is a mindset, said the designer, who noted that many homes, apartment buildings and business buildings in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley simply let native vegetation grow up to the buildings, with no attempts at manicured lawns and lush shrubbery.

“To them, it seems perfectly normal. It’s all in what you’re used to and accept. We are working on ways to persuade Southern Californians of the same kind of thing,” said Gotama.

The talk is one of a series of breakfasts for the CSUF College of Engineering and Computer Science Affiliates. The public is invited but seating is limited. Tickets are $10 for the public, free for Affiliates. For reservations, contact Robin Rawal at 657-278-3362 or

The Fullerton Marriott is located at 2701 E. Nutwood Ave., Fullerton, just off the Orange (57) Freeway Parking is free.


Media Contacts:

Russ L. Hudson, Public Affairs, 657-278-4007 or
Robin Rawal, College of Engineering and Computer Science, 657-278-3362 or

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Caecilia Gotama
Caecilia Gotama

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