It's a locale not necessarily regarded for being friendly to the environment. Then again, it’s also a place known as a pioneer for change.

The city and county of Los Angeles, known for its smog and crowded freeways, are both in the midst of adopting ambitious green building standards, which will improve energy efficiency and lower the environmental impact of new construction.

In November, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved a green building program that will require large new developments to be 15 percent more energy efficient. The standards, which the city council will consider this year, would apply to new buildings with more than 50 units or 50,000 square feet of floor area. They would be required to meet national standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization working to advance the cause of environmentally friendly building construction across the country. The standards, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), would reduce the amount of energy used in large developments to well below what is required by California’s building code, which already is the strictest in the nation.

The Los Angeles proposal includes wiring buildings for solar-energy systems, using high-efficiency heating and air conditioning units, and installing toilets and showerheads that use less water. Half of demolition and construction waste would have to be recycled, and low-irrigation landscaping would be mandated for lots greater than 1,000 square feet.

Los Angeles, along with more than two dozen other cities, already requires LEED certification for publicly funded buildings, such as schools and libraries. If the planning commission proposal were approved, Los Angeles would join a small but growing cadre of cities that impose the same requirement for private construction.

Meanwhile, a similar proposal is in the public hearing phase in Los Angeles County. The county ordinance will combine requirements for energy efficiency, low-impact design and drought-tolerant landscaping in new development projects.