Top Takeaways from Greenbuild 2017

photo of a solar flower | Greenbuild 2017If you weren’t fortunate enough to be one of the more than 20,000 Greenbuild attendees this year, do not worry because we have a summary of the most interesting, and game-changing concepts to emerge from this year’s 2017 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo which was held in the beautiful city of Boston, MA.

Greenbuild is always a fascinating environment to learn about the latest trends, products, and insights of the Green Building industry and the 2017 conference was no exception. Six SIG team members and one GBES team member felt this was one of the most educational Greenbuilds yet.

Below is a summary of the top takeaways from Greenbuild 2017:


Monica Gonzalez, MS, LEED AP BD+C, O+M, ID+C, WELL AP
VP of Development & Strategic Planning

  • HEALTH and intentional health promotion – an emphasis was placed on health promotion, not just in the “indoor air quality” sense, but with great focus on designing healthy spaces and neighborhoods for occupant well-being and longevity.  Tools, guidelines, and experiences were shared from various stakeholder groups, including investors and real estate companies as well as design teams, from both the portfolio-level and individual-building scale.
  • RESILIENCY – after the events and natural disasters that have recently occurred, the topic of designing buildings and neighborhoods for resiliency was buzzing throughout Greenbuild.  Emphasized was the importance of providing neighborhoods with “strong” buildings and the tools necessary to minimize impact, but one of the most influential components of resiliency is the feeling of community and connectedness with the neighborhood effected.
  • MATERIALS in v4 – the introduction of Environmental Product Declarations, Health Product Declarations, and building material products bearing the label of other LEED-approved declarations was a big change from the previous version of the LEED (v3 2009) Materials and Resources credit category.  Even after a few years of v4’s release, project teams are still finding difficulty in procuring “compliant” building materials to earn the LEED v4 materials points.  A handful of big names in the green building industry have created databases to facilitate the search and selection of sustainable materials.


Asa Posner, LEED AP BD+C, O+M
Senior Sustainability Manager

  1. photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking at Greenbuild 2017 in Boston | Top Greenbuild Takeaways and Highlights 2017Large focus this year on health + wellness, WELL, and the impact that the built environment has on human health. Seeing a paradigm shift from building-efficiency to people-efficiency. GRESB quote: “Health is now an investible attribute of real estate.”
  2. 2017 study showed that in the 30 largest US real estate markets, 40% of existing office buildings have LEED, ENERGY STAR, or both certifications. This is up from 5% in 2005.
  3. Absenteeism comes at a cost of 4% per private sector employee. This is roughly $2,502/year per employee.
  4. Attended a session on BuildingGreen’s Top-10 products. Most interesting one was an AirFlow panel that was essentially an ultra-efficient ERV panel that operates as the building façade.
  5. Great keynote and plenary speakers this year – Bill Clinton and Neil deGrasse Tyson.


Jenn Mahon, LEED GA, LFA, GGP
Sustainability Consultant

photo of Greenbuild sign | Greenbuild 2017I was happy to hear Greenbuild would be in Boston this year – I hadn’t been back to the city since my masters, felt great to get back in Boston! The sessions I attended this year were some of the best ones I’ve sat through in my years attending Greenbuild Conferences. There seemed to be more collaborative conversations arising from the sessions. Of course, as usual, there were plenty of announcements coming out from the conference, including the collaboration of Cradle to Cradle with USGBC. I tried to steer towards materials sessions to see how material vetting was going with the new LEED v4 credits going strong. A few takeaways from the conference:

  • CROSSWALKS – more and more projects are pursuing multiple certifications for their buildings. For example: LEED certification for the building efficiency and WELL certification for the human health components. Crosswalks is a platform collaboration aiming at lowering the documentation requirements for multiple certifications. There are still a few kinks to work out (submission timing, etc). Check out the published crosswalks here:
    • ORIGIN (a connected ecosystem of products) announced it’s new data source for LEED and WELL databases. Partnering with Mindful Materials and Portico (googles’ list). Their hope is to lower the time it takes to find product specs and proper materials for projects. Making it publicly available and reliable right from the source.
    • ProductMap is a tool (still in pilot) built to help product selection and make informed decisions and to analyze the materials. It looks at the performance applications, finishes, durability, and aesthetics of material products. The hidden added value in the tool looks at the products contribution to certifications (like LEED, WELL, BREEAM) to assist manufacturers in reporting their information – the nice part here is that manufacturers don’t need to know about the certifications, they just enter in product information. ProductMap creates a page for that product highlighting the green attributes of the product.
  • ENERGY STAR for Tenant Spaces – the Pilot had a deadline a few months ago, analyzing 140 spaces with 70 organizations in 25 states. This program is looking at individual tenant spaces within a larger building. Encouraging tenants to take note of their consumption, as tenant spaces account for the majority of the energy use in large office buildings. The pilot program is gathering feedback and making changes before releasing to the market, they will be awarding the first projects early 2018.


Brett Rockman, LEED Green Associate
VP of Business Development

  1. photo of Greenbuild Expo 2017Brett attended several sessions on the new WELL Building Standard, including a session on WELL projects that had been completed and the lessons learned. Version 2 is coming out in the next 8-9 months (Summer/Fall of 2018). With Rick Fedrizzi as the CEO of the WELL Building Institute, they will be creating a user interface that will be very similar to LEED having point structures and thresholds with the goal of making it a more viable platform for people to use.
  2. Highlights: Brett enjoyed Bill Clinton’s talk on climate change and felt President Clinton was one of the better speakers he has ever seen. Also, SIG’s happy hour and dinner were a lot of fun.
  3. The growth and success of ARC was also highlighted. Portfolios of buildings, as well as unique building types, are now in ARC (approx. 800 million square feet). It is really taking off.
  4. LEED v4.1 is in the works to address challenges of the launch of v4.


Andrew Cheek, LEED AP O+M, BD+C
Engineering Consultant

  1. I enjoyed hearing about the details of the ICP (investor confidence project) that the USGBC is organizing. In a nut shell, it is a seal of approval for investment partners that are looking at LEED projects and their return on investment. It is almost a way to guarantee the savings from Energy Improvement projects. Also, it is a great way to get owners that may not be looking to hold on to a property for very long involved with energy saving improvements because they are able to pass the payments of these projects on to the next owner.
  2. Hearing Bill Clinton speak about climate change was awesome and eye opening.
  3. It was my first Greenbuild so just the pure size of the conference was very surprising.
  4. The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative was also a really fun thing that I discovered while I was there and I hope it starts catching on in Atlanta with all of the green space that we have within the city.


Alyson Laura, Sustainability Maven
GBES, Green Building Education Systems (SIG’s sister company)

  1. Don’t fear the stink – we can and must start treating and reusing our blackwater on site. For example, Israel reuses 90% of its blackwater as grey water to irrigate fruit trees.
  2. Firms are using virtual reality during design development to help people visualize elements of biophilia.
  3. Our building products are hazardous because chemists were never trained to invent safe solutions. Green Chemistry has finally arrived in universities, and they are developing green solutions from the bottom up.
  4. There are more options than ever for lighting that meets our Circadian needs, for daytime hours, you want more blue light because it keeps you alert, and evening hours, after sunset, you want more red light because it promotes rest.


If you are passionate about green building, we would love to connect with you. We promote sustainability every chance we get through education, green building consulting, and energy engineering. Maybe we can help you with your next sustainability project, or perhaps we could just have a fun discussion. If you would like to get in touch with us, please leave us a message on our contact page. Thanks, and keep building green!

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