Last week I went to Toronto for Greenbuild 2011. This was the 10th Greenbuild conference, the largest, and the first held outside of the USA. The theme of the conference was “What’s Next?”, which served as a framework for everything discussed. This is the first in a series of posts that will outline my experience at Greenbuild, and what I feel is coming next in terms of ideas and technology.
At this conference I had the pleasure of attending lectures by industry giants, as well as meeting some of them such as Tom Friedman, Amory Lovins, Jerry Yudelson, USGBC president Rick Fedrizzi, and Cascadia’s own Jason McLennan.
Tom Friedman, author of many excellent books including Hot, Flat & Crowded, gave a fantastic speech at the opening plenary. He painted a picture of several pivotal events in our past that have shaped the last few decades of our energy and social infrastructure. Tom has a way of making you see history, and by virtue present day, in a totally different light. His comments on what will really constitute the arrival of a green revolution were excellent, as was his comment that we’ll know when it has arrived when we have just ‘building’, instead of ‘green building’.
Amory Lovins, Cofounder & Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, gave a brilliant presentation about his new book Reinventing Fire, which outlined how the USA economy of 2050 could run entirely without coal, oil, and nuclear. What makes this impressive is it’s done entirely with existing technology, and at a profit of $5 Trillion. By working together with the various industries involved, rather than being an expense this transition will be immensely profitable. Amory’s lecture was very inspiring and exciting, and was a perfect opener for the conference.
Jerry Yudelson, author of many green building books, moderated a panel on Ecodistricts, which was actually the most significant thing I took away from this conference. An ‘ecodistrict’ is an urban planning term for a specific section of an urban area, whether a neighborhood, school campus, industrial park, etc. that can operate as a self-contained and self-sufficient entity, while remaining connected to other adjacent ecodistricts. This concept is widely used throughout Europe and parts of Asia, but is still relatively unknown here in North America. The ecodistrict concept brings technologies such as district heating, decentralized wastewater treatment, and local food production down to a manageable scale, both for construction and financing.
Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC President & CEO, presided over the entire Greenbuild event and showed both his strong leadership and broad vision for green building. During the opening plenary, it was announced that Rick had just been named Chair of the World Green Building Council. I had the honor to meet Rick after the closing plenary, as part of the USGBC delegation I attended the conference with.
Jason McLennan’s presentation, titled Beyond LEED, outlined the vision for moving past the LEED rating system, toward buildings that have a positive impact instead of being ‘less bad’. The focus was on Cascadia’s Living Building Challenge, and on the new directions the LEED rating system is heading in to move closer to these more rigorous standards. Several examples were given, my favorite being the Oregon Sustainability Center. The main focus here was on connecting the people to the building, and connecting the building to the neighborhood. My favorite comment during this presentation was that the Living Building Challenge “makes us [LEED] look reasonable!”
I made many new friends, had the pleasure of meeting many of my existing friends & colleagues from the CaGBC, USGBC, and across Cascadia. I also had lunch one day with Mark Schrieber, a writer from one of my favorite green blogs, Jetson Green.
The main theme at Greenbuild 2011 was “What’s Next?”, and based on the focus on connections throughout every lecture and presentation, there is only one possible answer. What’s next?