Sustainable Design for the 21st Century

GreenBuild 2012 – San Francisco

by Brent Sauser

In only a few weeks tens of thousands of green building, sustainable design enthusiasts will converge on the San Francisco Moscone Convention Center to experience the latest advances in sustainable products and green building practices.  GreenBuild 2012.  I have had the opportunity to attend the GreenBuild 2009 convention in Phoenix, AZ, and GreenBuild 2008 convention in Boston, Mass.  It was truly amazing to walk the exhibit halls full of close to 1,800 green exhibitors.  Attending several education classes helped to keep me up speed with the rapidly changing culture of green products, methodologies, and building code implementation of sustainable practices.  I will be attending GreenBuild 2012 in San Francisco and look forward to meeting many of those companies featured on the “Resources” page of this web site. 

  The following is a brief summary of my experience while attending GreenBuild 2009 in Phoenix, AZ. 

Phoenix Arizona played host to the 2009 USGBC GreenBuild Convention from November 11-13.  This year’s convention was bigger and better than ever, featuring a wide variety of classes and over 1,800 exhibitors.  Over 28,000 LEED enthusiasts gathered for the three-day event, and although the attendance was down from the 2008 GreenBuild in Boston, the total attendance eclipsed expectations. Once started the convention seemed like a continuous hive of motion. 

             The stairs and escalators were a source of expected congestion.  However, that was a minor distraction when compared to the amazing depth of exceptional organizational detail.   It was evident that even in a down economy, where the building industry is struggling, the USGBC and LEED are more deeply rooted than ever.  Less time was devoted to selling LEED as the single source of sustainable measurement, while the major focus was on providing substantial evidence that LEED is, by far,  the industry standard for sustainable measurement in all fields of construction and throughout the free world.

             The opening night celebration at Diamondback Stadium emphasized the growth of USGBC domestically and in foreign countries featuring presentations by LEED  organizations in 10 countries.  It was very impressive to see examples of LEED certification all over the world. The event finished with the Honorable Al Gore as the featured speaker and Sheryl Crow as the star entertainment.  It was refreshing to hear that LEED is contributing to the overall global solution and that the momentum toward “green” design and construction is gaining a foothold worldwide. 

             A tour of the countless exhibits featured the latest in sustainable design products and services.  It was impressive to see how the manufacturing industry has not only focused their attention on sustainable products, but in improvement and innovation.  Whether increased recycled content in carpet, improved energy recovery mechanical systems, glazing treatments, lighting, or plumbing fixtures, the palette of sustainable products has grown to a level that will benefit any project LEED certified or otherwise.   I was most impressed with the advancement of LED lighting and with plumbing fixtures.  LED technology is quickly moving into the affordable range and should be considered for future projects.  As an advocate for waterless urinals I was pleased to see some advancement in that area, however, not enough to lessen the more frequent requirement for custodial care.  The one product that won my personal award for best innovation for 2009 was the 1/8th gallon flush urinal.   This product uses 1/8th the water that a typical urinal uses and, in my humble opinion, should be used in all design applications requiring urinals. 

             While attending the many educational classes regarding managing risk, LEED in existing buildings, LEED-User software, or getting to Net Zero, etc., I felt some comfort that we, as an industry, are moving in the right direction.

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