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Greenbuild USA 2

Women in Green Power breakfast, the Living Building Challenge, and William McDonough

What was really mind-boggling about Greenbuild USA in San Francisco was the sheer size of the venues which means that the plenaries accommodate over 5,000 people. Even though the event is significantly smaller than Ecobuild, it feels vast.

Women in Green Power

women in green power breakfast

Women in Green Power breakfast at Greenbuild San Francisco with more than 300 attendees (photo Schneider Electric)

One of the more lively events was the Women in Green Power breakfast, a ‘paid for’ panel cum networking event which attracted over 300 women to a 7am start. The format included four presentations with Q&A followed by informal networking at seated tables of nine.  The importance of mentoring came across loud and clear. A nice touch was that, for every paying attendee, a student attended free.  Architect Beth Heider, a USGBC board member and senior vice president at Skanska USA Building Inc, recounted her first job interview as a recent graduate in the 1970s with leading architectural practice in Richmond, Virgina. Her interviewer recommended that she ‘look into night courses in interior decorating’, a suggestion that made her even more determined to find work as an architect.

romilly Madow

GBC Australia chief executive Romilly Madow

Recently named one of the 100 most influential women in Australia, Romilly Madow, chief executive of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) , described her approach as  ‘we need to be everywhere.’ Translated into practice, that has meant finding a seat at the table for a GBCA member on every important board throughout the country. She also cited the importance of women needing to network and work with each other.

The Green Northwest

Another seminar put the spotlight on Portland, Oregon, where a bottom-up approach to green is complimented by proactive marketing by the city under the banner ‘we build green cities’.  Portland has the largest number of LEED certified projects per capita of any American city, with 213 projects completed as of December 2011. Portland is under the umbrella of the Cascadia Green Building Council (CGBC) which covers the states of Oregon, Washington and Alaska as well as Vancouver, British Columbia. The CBGC launched the Living Building Challenge (LBC)  in 2006, a green building standard (now operated under the International Living Future Institute) based on 12 ‘petals’ that claims to go beyond LEED Platinum, promoting social justice, cultural richness and ecological restoration.  LBC already has numerous initiatives around the globe, including in Ireland.  The first LBC workshops will be held in the UK in spring 2013.

Closing plenary and William McDonough

The two hour closing plenary included some rather lacklustre talks from the USGBC, an off-topic departure into the power of video games to reach a large audience (presumably the message was that this could be a route to behavioural change) to a grand finale by Bill McDonough - received by a mix of enthusiastic supporters with a standing ovation at the front of the auditorium while much of the audience drifted out.

Bill McDonough was very much in evidence throughout Greenbuild: at a press conference, a gala dinner with Meryl Streep and as the keynote speaker at the closing plenary. The Crade-to-Cradle certification process has been updated to add two new categories to the C2Cframework, which means that it is now a five step sustainability journey to reach platinum.

McDonough closing plenary

Greenbuild closing plenary with William McDonough and his Cradle to Cradle clients on stage (photo: Schneider Electric)

McDonough asked  several of his leading Cradle to Cradle clients to join him on stage, including Shaw Industries, Steelcase, Herman Miller, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Dow Chemical Company,  BASF, and Jones Lang Lasalle. While it was a refreshing indicator of progress to see these major players at Greenbuild, there was an element of self-aggrandisement to sit through their singing the praises of C2C while a beaming McDonough stood by. Most annoying of all were the video-conferenced speeches from the CEOs of the different companies which followed each presentation. Few in the built environment space have done as much as Bill McDonough to move the green agenda along. If you haven’t yet read his book, you should. The celebrity tendency is unfortunate.

All in all, a rather chaotic can-do mentality pervades Greenbuild. It’s really all about the networking because it’s just as challenging as Ecobuild to find worthwhile content.

Read the UK-GBC’s John Alker on Greebuild here.

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