My carbon footprint in June was significantly larger than a normal month, thanks to back-to-back-to-back industry events that had me bouncing between the Midwest, Northeast, and South for several weeks. While my multitude of flights was hardly ideal in terms of carbon emissions, my various destinations provided plenty of green food for thought as each location raised unique issues regarding sustainable design and construction.
My first stop was Miami Beach for the AIA National Convention. At the heavily air-conditioned convention center, education ruled the day—many of the sessions I attended were packed in attendance. I was heartened to see a large number of sessions addressing sustainable practices. In between these presentations and panels, I enjoyed speaking with a range of exhibitors about their newest offerings, while also spreading some exciting news of my own. As reported on our website last month and in our May/June issue, ECO-STRUCTURE’s publisher, Hanley Wood, has signed a five-year partnership with the AIA. As part of this agreement, ECO-STRUCTURE’s sister magazine, ARCHITECT, will become the official magazine of the AIA starting in 2011, and AIA members also will have the option of receiving ECO-STRUCTURE’s digital editions.
From Miami, I flew to Chicago for NeoCon World’s Trade Fair at the Merchandise Mart, a three-day product bonanza. This year was my eighth year attending NeoCon and while in the past I had always been concerned about the sustainable attributes of the bevy of products on display, I must admit it had not been my primary focus. This year, however, the question of environmental impact was dominant in every one of my conversations, be it with an attendee, manufacturer, or product designer—and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. As you may have noticed in many of my editor’s notes this year, the question of how industry professionals define green is a consistent area of fascination for me, and this trip to NeoCon provided fertile ground to explore the topic. However, rather than leaving the Mart with a concrete definition of a green product or green project, I came away with even more variables to consider that I look forward to exploring in future issues of ECO-STRUCTURE. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you: How do you define a green product? What attributes are most important to you in evaluating the environmental impact of a product? Give us your feedback online via Facebook or Twitter (@ecostructure), or in the comments section below.
To round out nearly two straight weeks on the road, I left Chicago for Bar Harbor, Maine, where the College of the Atlantic was hosting a small three-day think tank called the Delta Project. Our focus was the sustainable campus of the future: what would it entail, how could small higher education institutions work both independently and as larger groups to build it, and how would it possibly shape curriculum? Stay tuned to our website for future exploration of this issue, as well as our September issue, which will examine the education realm.
What struck me most about my time in Maine, however, was the transition in scenery. The contrast in locales is perhaps best represented by this anecdote: On one day of travel, I packed up my things in a high-rise hotel nestled among the swank stores of Michigan Avenue in Chicago and unpacked them several hours later in a two-story, six-bedroom college dormitory, on the woodsy shore of the harbor in Maine, where the showpiece was a compostable toilet. More importantly, however, the change in scale of both events and locales reminded me of the wide and complex range of ways our built environments impact the natural world, whether we’re in a giant metropolis, a wooded outpost on the coast, or an airplane flying high overhead. Now that we’re heading into the heart of summer and prime travel season, I challenge you to take a moment in your own journeys to look at your surroundings with a new perspective. I think you’ll find the view fascinating. I did.