John Fulmer East Mill Street Studio 313 Hardwick Place Joppa, Md. 21085 410.510.
7513 814.512.1482 cell 814.975.1144 fax Greenbuild 2007 If the throng of people who assembled at Greenbuild 2007 is any indication, sustainable building is no longer a niche market or practice. Attendees were met with a long, disorganized registration process, but the overflow crowd for the convention, sponsored by the U.S Green Building Council (USGBC) and held in Chicago’s McCormick Place from Nov. 7-9, only helped solidify the notion that the green movement is now mainstream. Organizers expected 20,000 and seemed totally unprepared for the 22,835 who showed up. Initiated in 2002, in Austin, Texas with a crowd of just 4,000, Greenbuild once largely showcased regional vendors and contractors, but the 2007 convention featured heavy-hitting multinationals such as Dow, DuPont and Siemens and huge contractors such as Skanska and Whiting-Turner. The trade-show floor offered 850 booths with exhibits as diverse as soy-based adhesives, airplane-tire based rubber floor coverings, composting toilets, energy-efficient lighting and building controls, roof gardens, and an entire area devoted to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood products. An eclectic mix of conventioneers, somewhat unusual for a trade show, was on hand. Students and scruffy-looking 20-somethings, no doubt drawn to the convention by the siren of idealism, rubbed shoulders with well-dressed, high-profile architects and their geekier counterparts in facility management, building commissioning, contracting and engineering. Bill Clinton, jokingly referred to “as Al Gore’s president,” handled the keynote address, giving the convention an extra-high-profile sheen.
“All new construction—all of it—should be green,” said Clinton, adding that a green economy is “the biggest opportunity to create broad-based prosperity since World War II. In 18 months we’ll be racing to see who can make the most energy positive buildings.” Just about every veteran trade show attendee spoke about the unusual energy and enthusiasm at Greenbuild and the heavy traffic at the booths. Even the inconvenience at registration was offset by the schmoozing while waiting in line, said Amy Cornelius, a project manager with Hugh Lofting Timber Framing, a Kennett Square, Pa. specialty contractor. Cornelius, like many at Greenbuild, is an Accredited Professional in USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program or, in shorthand, a LEED AP. “I have a friend who came and he’s starting a green hedge fund so he was there looking for companies to invest in,” Cornelius said. “He met so many people that he forgot that he had been in line all of that time. So he and I both said the same thing, which was interesting. It wasn’t that it was so interesting to see what somebody is doing today, it was interesting to talk to them about what they are going to do in four years.” Cornelius, a Greenbuild first-timer, was dismayed by the lack of representation by solar and wind power companies, but was impressed overall by the variety of exhibitors, seminars and programs. She called green building a “web” whose many strands can be scary for someone putting together a sustainable-building project. “I actually put my name in to be on the (USGBC) board this year because I wanted to be able to get to the little general contractors that are actually building all of the buildings, who are afraid of the green stuff,” she said. “And I think that the Green Building Council recognizes that there’s a problem there. But they don’t know how to deal with it either. They said, ‘Go run some other nonprofit then come back to us and we’ll be able to put you on the board.’ “But I thought it was a terrific show,” she said. “It was a bunch of really smart people who were very interested in learning as much as they could. Not because they had a specific project—
they might have one in the future—but they had a specific interest in learning a lot and that was refreshing. It made you really energized to go and learn more yourself and apply these things yourself. You know, I think I wrote twelve business plans while I was there.” Chris Bailey, particleboard sales manager with The Collins Co., a Portland, Ore., wood products manufacturer, dealt with a steady stream of architects, engineers and other specifiers. Collins also won a Top Ten product award at Greenbuild for its FreeForm particleboard, advertised as the “only FSC-certified particleboard in North America.” The FreeForm spec sheet lists its potential for LEED credits, such as “recycled content” and “regional materials.” For the uninitiated, LEED rates sustainable-construction practices through a point system. It’s a comprehensive rating, and some means of gathering points, such as installing energy-efficient lighting, seem logical. Others, such as awarding points for “regional materials” are more oblique and arcane. But since FreeForm comes from sources close to the manufacturing facility, in this case, within 500 miles, it means less fuel is required for its transport. Bailey, who has missed just one Greenbuild, described the booth traffic as a group of knowledgeable folks who wanted to know more than whether products were FSC certified, they wanted how they were certified. “They wanted to know, ‘Where is your wood source?’ In our case, it is all our own land, but then they wanted to know about the company,” he said. “They want to know where you’re sourcing it. Were there other things your company was doing on the environmental front? It was definitely more of a holistic kind of questioning than just product-specific questioning. “And I heard some people comment that they didn’t want to buy products from a company that made one item in a sustainable fashion just to meet the niche and everything else is made with a business-as-usual, production-type approach,” Bailey said. “Definitely a deeper questioning than you would normally get from a traditional crowd.” Jim Melillo, an account executive with Siemens Building Technologies, said his company, which provides products for integrated building systems, among many other things, has had a
booth at Greenbuild for two years. He met with engineers and some developers who were looking to incorporate green building technologies into the existing buildings or finding out how to attain LEED accreditations in new construction. “The people that were coming up to us were asking us what did we offer because they didn’t really understand how our energy conservation or our energy methods or design-build methods would help their particular facility,” said Melillo. Siemens, he added, also designs systems, which was of particular interest to developers “So what they wanted to know from us is how we can be involved early from a design-build perspective where, if they brought us in early, helping design, there is certain building-automation equipment to give them the energy needs that they need now rather down the road after the building has been built.” Angela Schumacher, a performance assurance specialist with Siemens Energy Services Group, dealt more with facility managers “Primarily, our focus was controls and building optimization,” she said. “A lot of the feedback or a lot of the people who were at the conference were focusing on solar. That was one of the biggest things that a lot of people talked about or were concerned about or interested in. And building automation controls, obviously.” Her group biggest focus, she said is trying to implement the LEED certification into what we do. She works on performance contracting (PC), a construction method that includes energysaving improvements within an existing budget by financing them with money saved through future reduced utility costs. “Truly understanding the overlap of what we do in PC to identify what would change in the scope of work to, not only save them energy at a PC format, but to also make them eligible to receive LEED certification,” she said. “If not right now, at least get them on the path to do that. Identifying kind of where we fit in, implementing that into our PCs and our audits that we do now, and kind of moving toward that. She agreed Greenbuild was different type of show.
“Primarily just the energy,” she said. “I mean, no pun intended, but the energy of the people there. There was a lot more excitement; people were a little bit more interested, not just by the technology, but beyond that how it affected the environment. “And so being able to overlap things that would save them money in addition to those that are more environmentally friendly,” she said. “There was a big cross between people were ‘greenies’ or environmentally aware to people who were, like Jim was saying, architects and engineers looking for technology.” Rich Bienvenu, also a LEED-AP, works as a landscape architect for LPA Inc. in Irvine, Calif. This was his first Greenbuild and the first time his firm had been represented at the convention. Bienvenu said traffic was excellent. With two people in the booth there wasn’t a time when someone was idle. Bienvenu caught Clinton’s keynote speech, which he called realistic” and also one by environmental guru Thom Mayne, the 2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate, that “was very idealistic.” “When you think about Clinton and Thom,” Bienvenu said, “and then you begin to see that it’s not only an issue of conservation—and, of course commerce has to be a big part of it—but it’s really a moral issue. What kind of world are we going to leave for future generations?”