Credit: Ray Ng

Professional conferences, workshops, and trade shows have always been rich resources for new information and networking opportunities, providing structured settings where communities convene to compare notes and share common interests. Nowhere else can you find such deep substance that can drive an industry forward or find a better place where professionals can gather, measure their progress, advance their knowledge, and go back to their businesses better equipped to serve and compete in their markets.

Green building events especially are viewed as indicators of our industry’s vitality, direction, confidence, and even belief in itself, as measured by the numbers of attendees and exhibitors, breadth and depth of the topics covered, and the intangible level of energy buzzing around the conference hall.

And judging by the growth in numbers and quality of green building conferences and trade shows, as well as the high-octane energy levels of presenters, attendees, and exhibitors I’ve seen at events this past year—this long and downright depressing past year—I have a good feeling about where we’re headed.

That’s not to say that sustainable building professionals haven’t struggled like everyone else. But there’s a degree of optimism among them that sets them apart now and—especially as signs of economic recovery and the greening of our industry increase—there’s the comforting sense that they will be ahead of the curve as markets return to find green building holding the keys to the future.

This is when all the years of conferences, workshops, and trade show conversations that have guided the evolution of these leaders will finally pay off. And this is how markets will eventually differentiate between green building companies, homes, and services, based on the depth of knowledge and levels of expertise and confidence found in the people behind them. Substance is everything when it comes to green building, and there’s no shortage of opportunities to obtain it or strong programs that provide it.

Among local and regional events all year, there are some stand-out national conferences you should track. For example, I just got back from the Energy & Environmental Building Alliance’s (www.eeba.org) annual conference, held this year in Denver. This is the premier event if you’re keeping an eye on breakthroughs in building science and energy efficiency; look for it next year in Portland, Ore. Coming up Nov. 10–14 is the USGBC’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Phoenix and its Residential Summit (www.greenbuildexpo.org). Jan. 19–22, the NAHB’s International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas (www.buildersshow.com) will highlight green building in a number of its educational sessions. The opportunities continue throughout the year, including the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s (www.nesea.org) conference in Boston March 9–11; the NAHB Green Building Conference in Raleigh, N.C., May 16–18, that includes certified green home tours (www.nahbgreen.org); green sessions at PCBC 2010 in San Francisco June 9–11 (www.pcbc.com); and then the 2010 West Coast Green (www.westcoastgreen.com) in early fall.

In addition to these and other national green conferences, there are a countless variety of local and regional green building education opportunities sponsored by HBAs and associations. Get connected, get educated, get out there, and get some more substance. You’ll never feel better about being a green building professional.