How to make the most of Greenbuild

Alex Spilger,
Director of Sustainability, BCCI

Greenbuild, the world’s largest conference and expo focused on green building and sustainability related to the built environment is coming to San Francisco in just a few weeks (November 14-16). It’s important for anyone involved in the green building industry to consider the options for participation in this once-a-year opportunity, whether by attending the full conference or many of the other events happening in conjunction with the Greenbuild conference.

I have the privilege of teaching green building courses around the Bay Area through local USGBC and AIA Chapters as well as through UC Berkeley and Stanford University. When the topic of Greenbuild comes up, most people assume they cannot attend if their employer will not pay for the conference admission fee ($800). If you are in this boat, do not let the price of full conference admission prevent you from taking advantage of the wealth of resources associated with Greenbuild. It’s not every day that the world’s premier green building conference takes place in our backyard, and many of the Greenbuild activities that offer great benefit happen outside of the formal conference lectures.

If you’re not able to attend the conference in full but still want learn and join in the fun, here’s a rough guide to making the most of this year’s Greenbuild:

Tuesday Afternoon: Take advantage of the pre-conference sessions, such as the Codes Summit, where local industry experts will compare CALGreen with the LEED Rating System. Tuesday’s pre-conference activities also include the Green Building Job Fair, which will provide an opportunity for U.S.-based green building professionals to connect with like-minded companies and peers. The job fair is free and open to all Greenbuild attendees and exhibitors, including those without a paid conference pass. Cost: $100 – $200 gets you into the summit and access to the Expo Hall on Wednesday ($75 value).

Wednesday morning: The Opening Plenary runs from 8-10 am. Participants are able to watch the opening plenary on the many screens set up outside the main lecture hall. Speakers include Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Kohler Co.’s namesake David Kohler, and San Francisco mayor-turned-Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom. Cost: $75.

Wednesday afternoon: Walk the Expo Hall and check out the latest and greatest green building products and services. If it’s anything like last year, definitely check out the furniture company booths. You can download the onsite Expo Guide here (brace yourself, it’s a 58-page PDF), or visit the Event Map to peruse the alphabetical list of companies exhibiting. Cost: $75.

Wednesday evening: Happy Hour in the Hall is not going to be your typical happy hour. It’ll be a chance to network with your peers while enjoying local entertainment, food, and drink. Cost: $75.

Thursday morning: Get an early start and celebrate the women in our industry at Greenbuild’s inaugural Women in Green Power Breakfast. Doors open at 6:50 am, and the panel discussion begins at 7:10 am. We’re looking forward to hearing what Michelle Moore, Senior Advisor, Office of the Director at the Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President of the United States has to say, post-election. Cost: $40.

Thursday afternoon: The Greenbuild Film Festival, continued from Wednesday, will feature powerful films about the environment and sustainable building. I recommend taking in a matinee—The Greenest Building (10:30 am), which poses the important question of whether a new building is the most sustainable choice and Rock the Boat (4:30 pm), a humorous documentary about accessing the phenomenon that is the Los Angeles River. Yes, LA has a river.

Thursday evening: Take advantage of the many happy hour meet-ups around town, and grab a bite to eat with friends before gearing up for the closing party. My favorite spots are Blue Bottle Coffee’s Mint Plaza location (66 Mint Street) for café fare and a jolt like no other, Chez Papa Resto (4 Mint Plaza) for contemporary French, or Radius (1123 Folsom Street) for local California cuisine.

Thursday night: After two intensive days of learning and connecting with colleagues, it’s time to celebrate. Join one of the Greenbuild after-parties taking place around San Francisco and get your exercise on the dance floor.

Google’s new San Francisco headquarters. Photo credit: Eric Laignel

Friday and Saturday: While the formal conference ends Friday, the Green Building Tours begin on Friday and continue through Saturday. These tours are a great opportunity to get an up-close, guided tour of some of the most cutting-edge, sustainable projects in the Bay Area. One of the projects featured this year is Google’s new San Francisco office space at Hills Plaza. The half-day tour Waterfront Revival: Eat, Play, Work (Ferry Building, Exploratorium, Google SF) will be hosted by the project design and construction teams, including Rapt Studios, BCCI Construction Company, and representatives from Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services division. The tour of Google’s new office is sold out, but there are still spots available on the full-day Green Historic Office Preservation tour, which includes the Bently Reserve. Register here.

For a complete list of pricing, click here.

Whether you attend the full conference or tailor it to fit your schedule and interests, this year’s Greenbuild promises to be—as it usually is—educational, inspiring, and fun. No other event in the world brings the green building community together like Greenbuild. So start planning your Greenbuild now, and I’ll see you there!

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