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Sustainable Design for the 21st Century

GreenBuild 2016 – Los Angeles

by Brent Sauser

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I had the pleasure to attend the 2016 GreenBuild Convention in Los Angeles, CA.  This was my 6th GreenBuild that dates back to 2009.  I spent the majority of my time walking the exhibition hall.  My overall impression was very positive with high marks for the quantity and quality of exhibitors, wonderful venue location, and depth of classes offered.  I enjoyed talking with many of the exhibitors about their products who were eager to share their expertise.  Quite honestly, the convention was better than I expected.

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However . . . . I came away with a sad feeling that the freshness and trendiness of the GreenBuild experience has faded, the luster and excitement of what once was a significant and relevant movement, now appeared mainstream, even boring.  I attribute that to three observations:

1.    Attendance:  After talking with several exhibitors it was their collective opinion that attendance was down.  I agree.  I remember packed aisles with past GreenBuilds, but numbers have tapered off.  Considering the expense to exhibit at GreenBuild the expectations were high.

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2.     GreenBuild is just another of many similar, but competing certification programs.  What was once the trailblazer for green building is now one of many certification programs that have their own conventions, certification process, and testing for future professionals.   Each one is a little different from the other but are more similar than different overall.  The original CEO of the USGBC jumped ship to spin-off another certification program that focuses on “well building”.  Over saturation of these, well intended building certification programs could be diluting the overall direction of green building and be more of a deterrent then benefit to the green building movement.  Evidence of this could be seen in the more vanilla exhibits at the convention this year.  I didn’t really see any leading edge products and several exhibitors that usually come to GreenBuild no longer participate.

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3)   The massage chair factor: My unscientific measurement for determining when a movement has “jumped the shark” is by how many totally unrelated exhibitors are sprinkled throughout the floor.   Admittedly, they fill space and add revenue, but don’t contribute to the  vision of what GreenBuild once stood for.  I have nothing against massage chairs or massage devices (in fact, I bought two!), but when the quest for maximizing revenue to fill spaces, because those spaces cannot be filled with GreenBuild relevant exhibitors, it’s only a mater of time before what once was leading edge and unique is filled with exhibitors of massage chairs, tasers, and magic cleaners.

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Several years ago I wondered if this day would come, where GreenBuild would evolve into just another kind of home show, but it has.  Unless GreenBuild decides to come to the Orlando Convention Center (my back yard), I will investigate what other conventions to attend that now carry the torch for green building and sustainable design.  But as for GreenBuild, stick a fork in it!

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