What We Saw at Greenbuild

As we expected, Greenbuild 2012 did not disappoint. Whether or not you followed our recommendations on making the most of the conference, we hope that you found great value in the forums, expo hall, green building tours and networking. Here’s a bit of what we saw at this year’s Greenbuild.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s annual Greenbuild, a gathering of over 30,000 green building industry professionals, kicked off with several pre-conference activities, including the Codes Summit and the Living Building Challenge Materials Forum. At the Codes Summit, the comparison between LEED and CALGreen, California’s statewide green building code, was a hot topic.

While there are similarities between the two, LEED ultimately puts much more emphasis on energy and project site selection. As Dan Geiger, Executive Director of the USGBC Northern California Chapter put it, “CALGreen raises the floor, while LEED raises the ceiling.”

During the Living Building Challenge Materials Forum, the discussion centered on pushing the limits of healthy, sustainable materials. Where LEED has done much to reduce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Urea-Formaldehyde, the Living Building Challenge advocates the elimination of other harmful materials as well such as Phtlalates, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Petrochemical Fertilizers & Pesticides, and harmful flame retardants through its Materials Red List. While this topic may only excite a fraction of the population, it concerns all of us and certainly with greater interest and transparency, has the potential to transform the construction materials industry.

“CALGreen raises the floor, while LEED raises the ceiling.”

Now, for the conference. We had a hunch that much of this year’s conversation would focus on the impact of politics on the environment. Indeed, the high-energy opening plenary, anchored by MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-hosts, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, examined what the recent elections meant for the environment, green jobs, and innovation. In summary, they emphasized that the time is ripe to become a part of the emerging green economy. Mika and Joe were joined by several notable speakers including Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, urban revitalization strategist Majora Carter, environmentalist, entrepreneur and author Paul Hawken, Kohler Co. President and Chief Operating Officer David Kohler, former Governor of New York George Pataki, and Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom.

MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-hosts, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough

To drive home the inspiring message regarding the green economy, President and CEO of USGBC Rick Fedrizzi, spoke with intense passion about the state of the green building movement, the dynamics of the forces at play, and the direction green building is heading moving forward. He stated that despite roadblocks that have surfaced, including the emergence of chemical industry associations who have contested LEED v4, the drive forward to create healthy and inspirational buildings will continue with greater determination than ever before.

Contributing to the larger message of a green economy on the up and up, were of course, unveilings of new green products and company announcements. BIG announcements! Google, a leading proponent of healthy workplace environments—and one of BCCI’s ongoing clients, revealed a whopping $3 million grant to the USGBC to support research on healthier building materials and policies to avoid harmful chemicals. BCCI has worked closely with Google as the company has established itself as a pioneer in keeping toxic chemicals out of building products used in its facilities. Naturally we were thrilled about this! Among other things, this grant takes Google’s public support for materials research to a new level.

Stay tuned for our next post, where we will share more industry news as well as new green building products that we plan to keep on our radar.

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