Top Takeaways from Greenbuild 2018

Greenbuild Conference 2018

Seven SIG team members traveled to Chicago in November to attend Greenbuild 2018. Everyone enjoyed the conference, the theme this year was Human x Nature. This was also the first Greenbuild for three team members. 
Plenary speakers included Amal Clooney, human rights lawyer and activist, and Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, received recognition by the USGBC for the city of Chicago’s LEED Platinum certification. 

Buddy Guy, American blues guitarist and singer, age 82, took the stage as the main entertainer. 

Below is a summary of the top takeaways from Greenbuild 2018.

From Asa Posner, Senior Sustainability Manager

  1. Still a very large focus on health and wellbeing at Greenbuild 2018. There was a separate session track dedicated to health, wellness, and occupant comfort. Many architects, engineers, designers, and operators are realizing the value (both personally and financially) of designing and operating buildings with human health and productivity in mind.
  2. Heard many more discussions on net-zero this year. Net-zero carbon, net-zero waste, net-zero energy – projects are starting to push the boundaries of LEED and ask “what’s next”. Part of that is human health/wellness – the next frontier is buildings that produce more than they use. And the technology and financial feasibility of this is becoming more and more available.
  3. Attended a session about changing the water paradigm – essentially, how we as humans value water. Although safe, drinkable water is a scarce commodity, water pricing doesn’t reflect it’s true value – it’s still very cheap. Quote from session: “Water pricing doesn’t reflect the value of water. Water is cheap, but it’s a supremely valuable and scarce resource.”
  4. Attended another session called “Better Air, Smarter People”, which discussed building occupant productivity in relation to air quality and CO2 levels. The ASHRAE ventilation rates (the amount of outside air to be brought into a building required by code) were actually developed, not by any particular science, but by bio-effluence – basically “odor”. The ventilation rates correspond to the amount of air needed to be supplied so that people can’t smell other people. Also, science shows that atmospheric CO2 levels are lowest in the fall, so that’s a good time for your kid to take the SAT! Finally, many hotel rooms don’t have proper ventilation to the actual rooms (outside air is dumped into the corridors only), so CO2 levels can often rise to 2,500 – 3,000 ppm overnight, which is similar to a 3-hour airplane flight.
  5. Regarding biophilic design, “sustainability as an amenity is a richer way to engage building occupants”. An example is a green/living wall inside the building.

From Kelsey Alexander, Sustainability Consultant
LEED Green Associate

It was my very first Greenbuild and I had an amazing time, and learned a lot. 

  1. Amal Clooney was the opening speaker for Greenbuild this year and she was incredible. She spoke with such passion and zeal about changing the world, and it really inspired everyone in the room to make the most of Greenbuild. 
  2. Learned about how IEQ can affect student performance. Daylighting, IAQ, and views can affect performance- the highest scoring LEED school reported highest test score gains.
  3. Attended a session on using the Arc platform for retail spaces. The presenters had streamlined documentation for getting a Starbucks LEED certified and talked about using sensors for real time IAQ testing and how they managed to get waste points in a coffee shop by composting wet waste. 
  4. One interesting session was on climate adaptive design and talked about designing multifamily residences to withstand future floods and hurricanes by raising the houses above the flood plain, including daylighting in stairwells, and reinforcing the building facade for flooding.

From Michael Friedman, Business Development Manager
LEED Green Associate

Learning about Zero Net Energy buildings on a small and large scale was very insightful.

This session showcased the different paths to zero energy taken by REI and Suncoast Credit Union.

Bakari Kennedy, Director of Facilities at Suncoast Credit Union, spoke on how Suncoast Credit Union has implemented a zero net energy approach regionally in all of their Florida branches and business/ call centers. While they are a credit union and do not receive tax incentives for their ZNE efforts. They still see great value in ZNE programs, and have seen tremendous utility savings in doing so. 

On a larger scale Susan Long, Sustainability Initiative Manager, at REI shared how an integrated design process and an early zero energy goal informed their new distribution center in Goodyear, Arizona.

Virtual Reality: An Emerging Tool For Sustainable Design 

This presentation highlighted the application of VR as a visualization and simulation tool to support the design process and educational outreach

Seeing a demonstration of  how virtual reality has real world applications in sustainable design was pretty impressive. 

VR is and will become more of a pivotal tool in showing and simulating what daylighting, ventilation and energy usage will be in a space before a project kicks off. 

Additionally this serves as a great tool to show clients design that immediately validates their vision and can garner instant feedback. 

Golden 1, Platinum Rewards: Re-imagining Green Sports Venues

• Getting a first hand look at the work and the insights from members of the design team for the Golden1 Center in Sacramento, CA. The first LEED Platinum arena in the world. 

• It was very intriguing to learn about their under-seat ventilation approach and how effective it is in comparison to your typical arena. 

Seeing the legendary Buddy Guy at the Celebration at the Field Museum was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

photo of Buddy Guy at Greenbuild 2018

From Jeff Stewart, Mechanical Engineer 
Energy Star Team Lead

1. Golden 1 Arena: 

  • Focus is most often on reducing cost for new stadium construction. 
  • Key LEED strategies implemented: 
  • High Performance Facade 
  • LED Lighting 
  • Green Walls 
  • Operable Hangar Doors 
  • Water Reduction Strategies 
  • Venue Connectivity – Internet of Fans (IOF) 
  • Underseat HVAC utilized instead of overhead cooling 
  • Fans can control their HVAC through a mobile app (IOF)
  • National Benchmark EUI = 86.0 kbtu/sf/year 
  • Underseat HVAC should be the primary HVAC going forward for enclosed arenas  

2. Tenant Star Program: 

  • In developing this program, the key focus was on the Split Incentive Problem – who is responsible for the costs of energy efficient measures? 
  • This arises in lease agreements where it is structured for the landlord OR the tenant to be responsible 
  • To be eligible, the all energy controlled by the tenant must be metered. This includes lighting and plug load at a minimum. HVAC is NOT required except where directly controlled (i.e. data center supplemental units) 
  • The Tenant Star program will be fully released sometime in 2019 
  • Single tenant buildings will NOT be eligible for Tenant Star. They must go through the normal full building process. 
  • More info at  
  • For current ENERGY STAR suspension, they will re-open certifications for individual property types. Offices will be last. 

Market Trends from CBRE:

  • Expected to be a 45% decrease in global investment portfolio values due to climate change impacts 
  • 40% of portfolio square footage has some form of green building certification 
  • Green Certification Impacts 
    • +3% in rent values
    • +7% in cash flow
    • +13% in property value
    • Higher occupancy rates
  • Studies found that green certified buildings carry rent and price premia
  • Lenders are more likely to give breaks on loans for green certified buildings 
  • CBRE has seen a major shift where investors now consider sustainability as the top priority 
  • ENERGY STAR has a positive impact on property value compared to non-ENERGY STAR
  • Studies are inconclusive on how health/well-being impacts property value

From Charlie Cichetti, CEO
LEED Green Associate

  1. Growth in WELLness Real Estate and the healthy section of the expo floor showed it
  2. More and more Biophilia in new designs
  3. LEED continues to grow internationally
  4. LEED v4.1 for EB has been out but for NC/CI it isn’t ready yet

Next year Atlanta will host Greenbuild 2019 and the entire SIG team will be attending and are very much looking forward to sharing our city. 

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