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Article | December 3, 2018

Perspectives on Greenbuild 2018: Human x Nature

Northern California's Rising Leaders Committee co-chair Halie Colbourne shares what inspired her at Greenbuild.

Northern California’s Rising Leaders Committee co-chair shares what inspired her about Greenbuild Chicago

Halie Colbourne, Sustainability Associate | BCCI Construction

USGBC’s international conference and expo, Greenbuild, took place at McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago this November. This year’s theme, “Human x Nature,” was interwoven throughout the conference—in session rooms adorned with biophilic elements, in Amal Clooney’s opening plenary human rights speech and in the Women in Green Luncheon, which focused on workplace policies, cultures, mentorship and leadership.

As co-chair of the USGBC Northern California Rising Leaders Committee, I appreciated the multitude of conversations that viewed these issues through a different set of lenses. Part of our committee’s purpose is to offer a fresh, innovative perspective to the USGBC Northern California community and secure the future of green building by maintaining a pipeline of passionate, competent leaders.

These sentiments were echoed in the Women in Green Power Lunch that I attended. Research studies by McKinsey, Deloitte and others show companies with a higher percentage of women are more profitable. One of the ladies present also suggested that the workforce look to young women for fresh ideas.

The need to change our lens was again reiterated in another session I attended, “LEED and Climate Change.” Although the industry has evolved to look at materials and renovations, it’s time to shift our focus to a broader view—one that encompasses and connects climate change and human rights.

The presenters emphasized, “Metrics matter and they’re not easy.” They referenced the recently published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and its honest look at the irreparable damage of a warming earth. According to this data, all building emissions need to be reduced 80 to 90 percent by 2050, and new construction must be fossil-free and near net zero energy by 2020. In addition, the rate of energy rehabilitation for existing buildings will need to increase to 5 percent per year in developed countries.

Part of our solution is to share these essential conversations with our clients and colleagues. The “Gaming for a Resilient Future: Net-Zero Energy Campuses” session shared a case study on Long Beach Community College. They noted, “The student population is expecting stewardship.” This reminded me of the importance of the work our Rising Leaders Committee is doing. Our purpose is to bolster the careers of young professionals from a range of disciplines through networking opportunities and hands-on leadership experience. Often, a common language is what’s most important to achieve aggressive sustainability goals such as net zero energy. It’s also crucial to understand that sometimes not building at all is the only way to maintain a building’s carbon footprint.

Overall, I was very pleased to hear and be a part of the radical conversations and movement to meet the criteria set by the IPCC. Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of USGBC and GBCI, shared his belief that partnership is leadership. If I can make a change at the local level by helping equip participants with the tools they need to succeed as leaders of their organizations, their communities and the sustainability movement, then I am “All In.” I also will remember Amal’s words, that helping one life is enough.

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