Top Takeaways from Greenbuild 2015

GreenBuild 2015 | Washington, DC | Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)

This year’s 2015 Greenbuild was held near the USGBC’s headquarters in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. This was the perfect venue for an event that hosted over 30,000 attendees from all around the world! Over 70 countries were represented! Rick Fedrizzi, the CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council, mentioned in the opening plenary that “there is work to be done; so, we do it!” This was one of the many themes of Greenbuild 2015, and throughout the expo it was apparent that thousands are working to get it done. Another theme of the expo was the shift from a focus primarily on energy/water savings and building materials/processes to an increase in the importance and quality of the built environment and habitat space. With the WELL® Building Challenge evolving from its origination at Greenbuild 2014 and other rating systems emerging, the bar is continuing to be raised. Rick Fedrizzi also announced that he will be resigning as CEO of the USGBC in 2017, “and not a moment sooner!” He is sad to be leaving, but he is excited to leave the USGBC in “good hands”. Rick announced that Mahesh Ramanujam will be succeeding him as CEO in 2017. Mahesh has been with the USGBC from the beginning, and some of the SIG team was fortunate to meet Mahesh personally at one of the USGBC Leadership Receptions. Our SIG team says that it was a true pleasure to meet Mahesh, and they feel confident in his competency and the future of the USGBC and LEED (as “well” as other rating systems supported by the USGBC).

SIG’s team members share their top takeaways and biggest impressions from Greenbuild below.

From Michael Cichetti, LEED Green Associate, Business Development Manager:

This was my first Greenbuild, and my main takeaway was amazement in the size and shared values of the attendees. Greenbuild was much larger than I expected, and it was very inspiring to see so many people working for a common goal: to build a better world to live and work in. The “green building” industry has not been large for very long, but it is apparent that it is growing rapidly and being adopted by many, many people.

In the expo halls, I learned volumes about some of the latest technologies emerging to accelerate the green building movement. So many advances in green building technologies have been made in recent years like single-unit sky lights that bring in daylight and control artificial lighting as efficiently as possible, recycled everything, and even roofs that “suck”. I met a gentleman that has designed his own roof vents that allow a roof to be sucked into place via an airfoil which eliminates the need for harmful roof adhesives. As a bonus, these vents can be used to dry out wet and damaged roofs via the same airfoil that is created.

Another takeaway that I was impressed with was to see how leaders in the industry are continuously looking for ways to raise the bar. Someone’s definition of a green building may vary from someone else’s. For this reason, it is important to always make improvements and continue to raise the bar. A key concept that although “less-bad” is good, it is not great, and we must continue to seek systems, environments, and buildings that are more beneficial than they are detrimental.

From Collin Shepard, LEED AP O+M, ID+C Sustainability Consultant:

  • Heavy focus on occupant health and comfort as the WELL certification for buildings, released at last year’s Greenbuild, gains traction in the industry. This certification focuses solely on issues relating to their seven key concepts, all dealing with human health and well being. These seven key concepts include:
    1. Air quality
    2. Water quality and accessibility
    3. Healthier food choices
    4. Light quality and maintenance of the body’s circadian rhythm
    5. Fitness and encouraging physical activity
    6. Comfortability considering things like acoustic and thermal controls
    7. Support for mental and emotional health through design elements, relaxation spaces, and innovative technology
  • I attended a great session on the Evolution of Green Building Goal Setting for Corporations. The presentation included green building expert panelists from Starbucks, Intel, Colgate Palmolive and CH2M HILL, which are considered leaders in global green building design. Highlights from this session included real world case studies and green building facilities experiences, as well as the final discussion focusing on the evolution of these goals. It is very encouraging to see that most of the industry-leading global corporations, across varying industry sectors, are incorporating sustainability and environmental impacts into the way they do business.

The unofficial theme of this year’s Greenbuild was introduced by the CEO of USGBC, Rick Fedrizzi, “There is work to be done, so we do it.” With all of the amazing work being done in sustainability, there is an increasing awareness that it makes sense from an environmental and a human health perspective. As more and more corporations embrace sustainability, there is a competitive advantage for those that adopt sustainability programs, department, and initiatives. Those that have held off aren’t seeing the same savings or market differentiation as those that have engrained sustainability into their core business model. The business case for green building and sustainability at large is becoming easier to communicate, but there are definitely industries and countries that are leading the way, as well as those that lag behind. We need to continue to share best practices and improve on the moving target that is sustainability.

From Monica Gonzalez, LEED AP BD+C, ID+C, O+M, Senior Sustainability Consultant:

  • Health and well-being were even more prevalent topics at this year’s Greenbuild. Health policy professionals and even doctors are getting involved in the discussion. USGBC has created a new “health process” pilot credit, and WELL and other wellness-related metrics are emerging.

1. “Buildings can’t be ‘healthy;’ a building is a platform for health.”

2. Project teams – for both new and existing buildings – need to intentionally address health and well-being.

  • Aligned with the focus on health, “green building” is starting to encompass a broader “green living” point of view, including quality food and nutrients. Given the enormous amounts of resources attributed to the agricultural industry, urban farms and even rooftop gardens, and rooftop hydroponic greenhouses are catching on.

From Ashish Bagle, LEED AP O+M, BD+C, ND, Senior Sustainability Consultant, Consulting Department Manager

In order to add another layer to buildings’ pursuit for energy efficiency, the Department of Energy as well as jurisdictions such as the State of Massachusetts have developed tools to assist with Building Energy Asset Ratings. These tools assess the physical and structural energy efficiency of buildings’ assets rather than the operations of a building; this analysis compliments tools such as the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio manager. This newer form of energy efficiency assessment is geared toward driving further investment in a building’s systems.

From Asa Posner, LEED AP BD+C, O+M, Senior Sustainability Consultant:

  • Really enjoyed the renewed focus on occupant health and well-being. The sessions reflected that.
  • Attended probably the best session of any Greenbuild I’ve ever attended – it was about the correlation between green buildings and cognitive function of the occupants within those green buildings. Monumental study and research by several Harvard School of Public Health researchers.
  • Always feel a sense of community at Greenbuild – everyone working tirelessly to achieve a common goal.

From Charlie Cichetti, Co-Founder & Principal, LEED AP BD+C, ID+C, O+M, ND, Homes:

  • WELL Building Standard [GBCI/USGBC are pushing this new partnership strongly]
  • Energy Star for Tenants (Tenant Star) [slow adoption, but is good tool for tenants to compare their energy usage to other tenants]
  • EV charging stations affecting CRE [interesting talks around does a landlord charge for Electric Vehicle infrastructure and charging or not?]
  • LEED growing overseas [as you know; the numbers are climbing. China, India, Middle East, South/Latin America, Germany, etc.]
  • and more here.

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