Green mood in New Orleans.

Highlights from Greenbuild 2014.

Maybe not one of the busiest (but the numbers were nonetheless significant), surely one of the most exciting and compelling editions of Greenbuild, the one concluded last week in New Orleans. The leadership in jazz, the ease, the green reconstruction nine years after Katrina. So many meetings, people, emotions. Greenbuild is definitely the unmissable event, the annual convention that brings together the community of green practitioners to share the best sustainable practices. Here is Rick Fedrizzi (CEO of USGBC) introduction during the “Opening Plenary and Celebration” at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (wow, what a location …!).


These are in my opinion the ten moments and meanings that this twelfth edition left me (not in order of importance).

1 | Rick Fedrizzi and the shared leadership. The feeling this year is that the USGBC is now a extremely well-oiled and mature organization, where it is not necessary that the charisma of Rick is predominant. The new figure of the president, Roger Platt has made the scene, for instance. And the presentation of the samples of sustainability champions (too long to list them all) of the USGBC and its network during the closing ceremony testifies to the direction that the greatest world organization of this kind has taken. A distributed leadership through several departments, geographical areas and different ages (I’ve never seen so many young people like this year!).

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The champions of sustainability. USGBC and its network

2 | Scot’s dynamic plaque: the novelty of this year, the paradigm shift. The creation of Scot Horst, finalist among the most innovative design objects at the Fast Company event two weeks ago, is the tool that can really change our built world. It monitors and assigns a score in real time to the sustainability of any LEED certified building. Only if you measure you can improve, we know it; the dynamic plaque is the platform we all were been waiting for.

Here is Scot’s speech !

Bertschi School Living Science Building
The Bertschi School, Seattle (WA)

3 | Living Building School: Living Building Challenge and the sustainability embedded in the DNA of the new generations. I love what the people at the International Living Future Institute are doing. If the school (as education provider) is “magistra vitae,” buildings like the Bertschi School in Seattle are living organisms that educate our children to grow up aware of the balance with nature and its resources. A lot of talks about education and training, along all three days, good sign.

4 | Retailers could be the new messengers of sustainability. The case of Starbucks (500 LEED certified shops !), Verizon, and some others. We see that large international companies operating globally, can do a lot in terms of reducing their impact. It’s also a matter of responsible communication to the customers as well as a virtuous management of their business. Not surprisingly, the latest report of USGBC (LEED in motion) is focused entirely to retail and its opportunities.

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Sustainability in the Retail Sector, w/ Anthony Perez (Starbucks), Ana Meyer (Verizon) and Lauren Staniec (Pyramid)

5 | Biofilia. It is no longer an esoteric concept, it really becomes a tool for urban planning. We have heard this keyword more than once. Particularly impressive, in my opinion, the speech of Julia Africa, of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health. Biophilic urbanism, which foregrounds access to nature and biodiversity in urban settings, supports improved public health and environmental quality through daily opportunities for contact with nature.

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Designing Biophilic Cities for Public Health (image: Matt Grocoff)

2014_10_29 immagine 066 | The social credits. Getting credit for doing good. LEED opens the door to the pilot credits of social equity. And this is certainly innovative, not only for LEED but for sustainability protocols in a broader sense. Social equity within supply chains, communities, project teams.

7 | LCA (Life Cycle Assessment). Now a standard, although the majority of the manufacturers has not yet grasped this first passage for the “revolution of transparency” that has a huge market potentiality. This is the metric that could change the fortunes of many companies. The novelty is that now we speak of LCA in the whole building, see the calculation tool (easy to use, it seems) developed by Athena Sustainable Materials Institute.

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Getting the LCA credit in LEEDv4 w/ Jennifer O’Connor (Athena Sustainable Materials Institute) and Mark Lucuik (Morrison Hershfield)

8 | Act on the built environment. We have already done it all, now we have to upgrade the built assets to the standards of the new millennium. Thus said Scot Horst in his passionate presentation of the dynamic plaque. There is an enormous space for redevelopment and improvement. With a focus on historical buildings, see the great example of the Pearl Brewery complex in San Antonio.

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The Pearl Brewery refurbishment in San Antonio

9 | The master speakers: Katharine Hayhoe, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University (the climate change is linked to the man activities and behaviour, end of discussion), Deepak Chopra (a roadmap for “higher health, “based on the latest findings in both mainstream and alternative medicines – with a “mediation session bonus”). Motivating, exciting, inspiring. They helped us to think “out of the box”.

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Deepak Chopra
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The resilient building (image: USGBC, Building Resiliency Task Force)

10 | Resilience, after Katrina: rebuilding in a sustainable way, nine years later. Resilience, much quoted at the conference. Safety and stability of our houses come before the need for energy efficiency, what do you think? Isn’t it a matter of sustainability? Because what happened in New Orleans will not happen again.

Thank you, Greenbuild 🙂

Greenbuild is the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. The ideals and passion of the green building community come alive at Greenbuild. The buzz is contagious. Greenbuild brings together industry leaders, experts and frontline professionals dedicated to sustainable building in their everyday work, and a unique energy is sparked. Participants are invigorated. Inspired. They find themselves equipped to return to their jobs with a renewed passion and purpose. These are the past editions: Austin 2002, Pittsburgh 2003, Portland 2004, Atlanta 2005, Denver 2006, Chicago 2007, Boston 2008, Phoenix 2009, Chicago 2010, Toronto 2011, San Francisco 2012, Philadelphia 2013.

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