With more than 22,000 professionals in attendance at the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Greenbuild 2007 Intl. Conference and Expo in Chicago's McCormick Place West last November, there's no doubt: Green has become mainstream.
The conference featured dozens of guest speakers who talked about environmental trends in the buildings industry. Attendees came from all over (66 countries were represented), according to USGBC Director of Communications Taryn Holowka. "This [past] year's conference theme was ‘transforming our community,' which encourages people to think environmentally beyond a single building," she says. "It's not just thinking about the infrastructure," adds Holowka. "We want people to think about the community, walkability, and smart development (not just about more development), and [about] combating urban sprawl."
In addition to the conference program, this past year's Greenbuild featured an exposition with something (green) for everyone. More than 850 exhibitors attended, showing off products and services to help any facility reach its sustainability goals: Small and large manufacturers/consultants/service providers were represented, from AABC Commissioning Group to Zurn Engineered Water Solutions, with products ranging from paint to bathroom supplies.
Energy, excitement, and expectations were high throughout the multiple-day conference and exposition. Among the highlights that occurred at this significant industry event were the following ...
Green Goes Beyond Global
The day before the conference, the USGBC launched a website (www.Greenbuild365.org) to create global and online access to green building education. Currently, the website features a blog and video archives from Greenbuild 2007. The USGBC will continue to add free and fee-based courses on green building technologies to the website to give professionals the training they need (particularly to help successfully apply LEED certification to building design, construction, and operation).
In addition, during the conference, the USGBC announced the launch of another website (www.GreenPlaybook.org), which is a partnership among the USGBC, the City of Seattle, and 20 other organizations that forms The Playbook for Green Buildings & Neighborhoods. In addition to strategies, tips, and tools to help communities with their sustainability efforts, the first phase focuses on helping mayors and county leaders make good on their promise in the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement: 710 mayors and more than 75 million Americans have agreed to help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in their communities through a variety of strategies, including green building development.
Chief Executive Jumps on the Green Bandwagon
When former President Bill Clinton took the stage for his keynote address at Greenbuild 2007, he described the green building movement as the nation's largest economic opportunity since the United States mobilized for World War II. "It's not going to be easy, but we have to move away from the carbon economy," he explained, adding that he considers green building to be "perhaps the most important cause we can be involved in today."
He discussed the failed model of the Kyoto Protocol, the need for greater international cooperation, and the efforts of the Clinton Climate Initiative to effect change throughout the world. "It's critical that we negotiate a successor to Kyoto by 2009 or 2010, and we need a broader consensus on China and India," he noted. In addition, Clinton made several references to former Vice President Al Gore, who (along with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for raising public awareness about the environment. Noting that such efforts have succeeded in changing people's attitudes, Clinton says that the time has come to "operationalize" the change. To that end, his foundation will use more than $5 billion in financial commitments to undertake a green-retrofit program for buildings in 40 cities, beginning with three joint projects with the City of Chicago (a green overhaul of privately owned housing and two major landmarks: Sears Tower and The Merchandise Mart).
An unexpected surprise (for the former president) was that USGBC President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi presented Clinton with a LEED Platinum plaque for his presidential library in Little Rock, AR. Designed by New York City-based Polshek Partnership Architects LLP to be a LEED-rated building, the library was recently recertified under the LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) program.