2015’s Greenbuild was another great affirmation of how much progress has been made in the sustainable building environment. Southeast Green was honored to attend and be sponsored by Mohawk Group. This year’s Greenbuild was in Washington DC and the theme was Monumental Green. It was monumental for several reasons but not in ways you would typically think it would be. Here’s my list of highlights:
- Using the Metro in DC rocks! I spent a month in DC a hundred years ago and loved the Metro. This trip underlined how awesome the Metro is and what a difference public transportation makes. I used the Metro the whole week and not only did I get to experience DC like Washingtonians, I also got a glimpse of hopefully what our future world will be like, lots of walkable cities. Besides if you are going to the green building conference why not commute sustainably?
- Greenbuild is really about building the tribe of sustainability. Yes, there are plenty of tradeshows focusing on sustainability but there is something special about the sense of community that Greenbuild lifts and supports. Maybe it’s the nature of the collaborative work of design, architecture and construction that provides this tribe vibe generation, but it is energizing to be around so many motivated people enthusiastically working towards a greener future.
- Biophilic seemed to be the buzz word. Biophillc design is using natural elements to enhance design. For example using daylighting is biophilic. Watch for its use more and more.
- The design field has become broader, deeper and much more thoughtful about how sustainable buildings will influence people’s lives. Sure energy efficiency is still at the core, but health, wellness, utilizing all the space in the room therefore using less room, are all on the table now in regards to design.
- Product declarations and certifications are more important than ever. There are two schools of thought on this. So whether you are for full transparency of product ingredients, like Mohawk, through the International Future Living Institute or certified products from Cradle to Cradle, understanding the sustainability and more importantly health aspects of materials being used is now a big part of process. Performance of course is still important but it’s now a more holistic approach to product selection.
- There is still a huge disconnect between West Coast and East Coast. When listening to presenters from California, they might as well be from Mars. Don’t get me wrong. They are doing amazing things and it’s really, really exciting. However, for most of us, what’s going in California will stay in California. California is legislating left and right all kinds of things that will simply not happen in the Southeast for probably another decade, if ever. So if you want to see what things will look like possibly in 10 years in the South look to California today.
- Please don’t say Carbon Tax. There was a lot of talk about a Carbon Tax. By simply using the term tax, advocates have immediately estranged at least fifty percent of the population. Once again this seems to be a West Coast vs. East Coast thing. If carbon pricing is going to happen then pro carbon “tax” folks need to be culturally sensitive to the general population of the US. The Citizens Climate Lobby is using the term fee. This is a much more preferable way to enter into a national dialog and to gain momentum. So let’s just kill the word tax.
- Girl Power rules! One of the things that Greenbuild does better than any other tradeshow in sustainability is the lifting and supporting of women. This is in part due to the fact that still in 2015, most architecture and engineering firms are overwhelmingly male. Don’t get me wrong, men are great but in male dominated environments it can feel overwhelming to women, especially young women coming straight out of college. USGBC’s amazing staff of women are not only working to create a mentor program for young female professionals but are also working through the Girl Scouts to encourage more girls to consider math and science as paths for careers. At the Women in Green breakfast which had 540 women in attendance, USGBC made the announcement that the Girl Scouts are now offering a badge for green building. How cool is that?
Another notable girl power event is the Women in Sustainability Leadership Awards presented by the Green Building & Design magazine in partnership with USGBC. These awards honor women throughout the corporate and nonprofit world doing amazing work in sustainability. Sponsored by Mohawk, the dinner featured 20 outstanding women, including Atlanta’s own Dagmar Epsten and DC’s Heather White of the Environmental Working Group. Rochelle Routman, VP of Sustainability for Mohawk is the president of the Alumni Club for this group of women so watch for great things from this inspiring program. See the list of this year’s honorees.
So this is probably not what most people would expect coming from a very technical conference and tradeshow, but as many know I always like to identify the unintended benefits. Sometimes those unintended benefits are more significant than the event. Of course, it all has great value. All you have to do is look!