I have Greenbuilditis and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Symptoms include sore and sometimes swollen feet from walking convention center halls; achy shoulders from carrying an oversized bag to carry convention gear; a raspy voice eerily reminiscent of Peter Brady in a well-known episode of The Brady Bunch; and a unique mix of near-total exhaustion and a sense of invigoration. It’s an affliction you can wear with pride (and can be cured with lots of sleep).
What has me so worn down yet fired up? Here’s some of what I was exposed to in Philadelphia last week:
“Green is here to stay. It’s not a fad. It’s the future.”
Judging by his remarks at the Greenbuild Opening Celebration Thursday night at Temple University, Philadelphia’s mayor Michael Nutter is one smart cookie. While he opened with admission that he recognized his place as the opener of a headliner roster of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bon Jovi, Nutter hit home with his remarks. For many years, the green building movement has been dismissed as a passing fad. No more. Green building, Nutter told a packed crowd, is now a $100 billion industry that doubles in size every three years. USGBC co-founder and CEO Rick Fedrizzi followed him up, adding that research now indicated that more people support sustainable building than those that do not.
There’s room to grow, too. At the closing plenary on Friday, Yalmaz Siddiqui, senior director of environmental strategy at Office Depot, explained that there is $15 trillion worth of institutional buying power in the United States and construction and real estate directly influences 8 percent of this amount. That’s a lot of power. Recognizing this opportunity, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week that it is proposing draft guidelines to green federal procurement processes, and wants public input on the proposed approached to how the government interprets and uses ecolabels and non-governmental environmental standards.
So what next? Buckle down and work harder: As recapped by Residential Architect and Architect executive editor Katie Gerfen, Hillary Rodham Clinton summed it up as this: “’Take what you know works and explain it to anyone who will listen to you.” Clinton noted that sustainability is not just about green buildings, but also about economic security, health and well-being, and “about building the kind of future we want to leave for our children.’”
“You can’t monetize what you haven’t measured.”
Continuing on this thread of the business of design, proper valuation of green building technologies and techniques remains an issue in both the commercial and real estate realms. However, there’s a lot of work being done to change that. At a number of sessions over the course of the conference, I heard about the growing sea of data emerging to bolster the business case for high-performance design, and an increasing awareness of the need to benchmark buildings. I found it sad but true to hear a speaker at a session on building asset ratings not that we’re still fighting against a mindset that believe benchmarking “involves creepy white vans driving by a house doing scans at night,” rather than a mindset that regards it as an opportunity to uncover benefits.
As a repeat Greenbuild attendee, one of the things I still keep thinking about is the change in tone from USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi during the conference’s opening celebration at Temple University on Thursday evening. While last year’s opening celebration in San Francisco was punctuated with a somewhat aggressive and defensive battle cry of “We Are Right,” Fedrizzi’s remarks this year took a remarkably different turn. “Join us,” he said, fully acknowledging the conciliatory tone, explaining that while last year he drew from “The Scoundrel’s Handbook,” this year he drew from “Silver Lining Playbook,” and was taking a noticeably more optimistic view of things. After a year of bitter back and forth over LEED, from contention over the credit changes that will now be enacted with v4 (which officially launched at the show) to state-level attempts to ban the system from use in public buildings, it was a refreshing change of pace. Whether it leads to more discussion among LEED admirers and detractors will have to be seen in the coming months.
In the meantime, we’re already at work in spreading the message. The “Join us” call now officially extends internationally: This morning, the USGBC and Hanley Wood announced that Greenbuild for Europe and the Mediterranean region will launch on Oct. 8, 2014, in Verona, Italy. Interested in presenting? Stay tuned: A call for presenter proposals will open on Dec. 9.
Editor's note: Ecobuildingpulse.com's parent company, Hanley Wood, recently entered into a strategic partnership with USGBC regarding the management of Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. for more information on that relationship, click here.