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Clinton: 'Green building is not an evidence-free zone. We know that it works.'

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Hattie Hartman reports from Greenbuild Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton rallies for the greening of America

As first lady 20 years ago, Hillary Clinton greened the White House. Last week the former secretary of state told 10,000 building professionals gathered in Philadelphia for the annual Greenbuild conference that sustainability must be at the top of any agenda for America’s future. Citing the $4.4 million annual savings achieved by the recent retrofit of the Empire State Building, she noted: ‘Green building is not an evidence-free zone. We know that it works.’

The theme of healthy materials and whole-life costing dominated Greenbuild, spurred by changes in the material credits in the latest update to LEED. The fourth iteration of the American certification system was released at the conference and accompanied by countless seminars explaining the revised credit system.

This emphasis on materials is long overdue. LEED v4 will slowly drive disclosure of the chemical make-up of materials and products through the American market. Partnering between Cradle to Cradle and other third-party disclosure institutes, though in its infancy, will help harmonise the process and provide useful sources for specifiers. As part of a pre-conference summit devoted to materials, the BRE’s Martin Townsend shared the European experience with life cycle analysis and Environmental Product Declarations.

As secretary of state, Clinton promoted the greening of American embassies and consulates. Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake’s new US Embassy in London, which started on site this month, is the flagship project, soon to be followed by an embassy in Mexico City.

I visited KieranTimberlake’s offices to attend the launch of TALLY, an Autodesk plug-in for Revit, which enables whole-life carbon tracking of building materials and components. TALLY was initially developed within KieranTimberlake’s R&D group as part of its search for carbon data to inform design decisions.

At Greenbuild Philadelphia, the preoccupation with health extended beyond materials to the way we plan cities. After extensive investment in cycle infrastructure and urban greening, Philadelphia now ranks first among American cities for people who cycle to work. Clinton’s message is clear. ‘We know what we need to do. We have to be better organised and build better partnerships to do more and more.’ Let’s get on with it.

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