This year’s Greenbuild theme was Monumental – and it felt just like that.
I recall when the USGBC moved from San Francisco to Washington, DC around 1999. It wasn’t a big move. Kristen Ralff-Douglas packed a few boxes and shipped them east. Christine Irvine was figuring out how to travel back and forth from Portland. Steve Keppler found the new space and hired Donna McIntire and Peter Templeton. The three of them tried to figure out how to manage Paladino in Seattle as we co-developed LEED. Rick was living in Syracuse.
LEED was still on the test bench back in Seattle as we worked from a house boat moored at the University of Washington. I can remember putting together the first LEED application ever, Project 001, Firstside Center for PNC. Workshops, reference guides and a tiny technical support website were launched through the efforts of a dozen staff and volunteers. None of us were thinking monumentally. We needed to ship!
Fast forward to the first Greenbuild ever on the home field. The second generation of leadership is taking over the helm, inside USGBC and outside in the industry. One rating system is now seven. LEED Fellows are starting to look like the LEED Silverbacks. And LEED has made monumental impact – more than a billion square meters of space globally. Good for us!
And yet for all the success, as I walked amongst the capitol monuments of DC at Greenbuild 2015, I heard pundits talk of the challenges with climate change, political strife and economic inequity. Monumental challenges. It is a heavy burden we hand to the next generation. I hope my generation will mentor on a monumental scale before we leave the stage.
The Paladino team – representative of the generation taking on the next challenges of sustainability – came away with a variety of impressions and new information that inspires us to act.
More than any other Greenbuild, this year it was personal. After almost ten years working solely on DC sustainability in commercial real estate, it was thrilling to see our city on display for the industry’s most influential.
Like many of my DC based colleagues, I started working on Greenbuild 2015 in October of 2014 as the co-chair of the Ambassador Host Committee. Seeing it all come together and understanding the hard work and commitment it took to get there made it all the more special. I am refreshed and ready to push forward.
I think that one of my big take-aways this year is that innovation loves constraint. I saw great ideas walking the expo floor and hearing about program execution in the education sessions and realized that all of them started with “so, we have to figure this out…” and then someone did. There seemed to be a lot of conversations about problem-solving, and even better, changing the problem so we can solve it differently.
It also occurred to me that DC is great example of how rules and regulations can create strong and viable markets. DC has been a pioneer in the green building movement by requiring projects to adhere to strict sustainable practices using third-party verified systems to prove results. The outcome has been that all stakeholders working within the complex world of CRE have had to adapt to green. This city has learned how to leverage new ways of thinking and new technologies to get the job done – and made green the market standard. Look no further than the Greenbuild tours this year for the incredible examples of what this market has done to advance sustainability.
The other lesson learned this year is that sustainability is now being linked with resiliency. I think this is another significant moment for the evolution of sustainable building practices. With an entire education track devoted to the topic, it seems clear to me that the green building community is positioning itself to tackle this complex and critical subject. I say bravo! I think this move has huge potential for our industry and provides a natural link between smart economic policies and the mission of sustainable design.
Last but not least, Greenbuild 2015 was about connecting and reconnecting. Being able to see so many clients and colleagues simply reinforces the great work we are all doing together. I was so thrilled to be able to share hugs, shake hands, and toast with our friends this year. We have had a great deal of successes and seeing the collective result of our work was inspiring. Can’t wait for LA 2016!
Dina Belon, Director, Hospitality market leader
This Greenbuild, I was especially intrigued to hear the perspective from a third generation developer in the Bay Area, Scott Jacobs, CEO of Landbank located in Menlo Park, CA. The company is working on Central Wolf Campus in Sunnyvale, CA. Built in 1970, the nine existing buildings were demoed instead of renovated, and redesigned as a speculative 777,000 sq. ft. LEED Platinum; Net Zero Energy (NZE) ready campus.
Jacobs stressed that instead of focusing on energy efficiency, an inevitable component of sustainable design, focus on the experience and workplace environment for the tenants and employees. Tenants see investments into employee wellness as the highest value – an area where real estate has an opportunity to impact brand and company performance. He emphasized people/user centric design – enhanced connectivity, biophilic design, and healthy workplaces that are comfortable and innovative.
On valuation of the asset, Jacobs noted that in the future the market will discount the value of his assets if they aren’t NZE or deep green projects.
Susie Westrup, Manager, Commercial market leader
What I love about the green building movement is how people hold each other accountable. This is displayed in its fullest at Greenbuild. Student volunteers make sure your food waste is composted and doesn’t end up in the landfill. Guest speaker James Cameron makes us think a minute longer before we order a hamburger. Tens of thousands of sustainability ambassadors and change agents are gathered with a mission. While their businesses vary from consulting to electro-chromatic glass, they have one thing in common: a conscience.
Cameron called upon businesses to “have a conscience, seek solutions, be profitable and efficient.” This same theme was echoed in the Greenbuild Legacy Project Education Session. Businesses and industry professionals who are connected to their neighbors and know the needs of the community can make an incredible impact through their stewardship.
As the market continues to demand transparency and data, companies with environmental and social governance will use their conscience to make sound decisions and change the way we do business.
Divya Natarajan, Project Manager
This year’s Greenbuild was very close to my heart. As members of the host committee, we welcomed the national green building community to our wonderful city of Washington, DC.
This year marked a significant change for green building metrics. Metrics have expanded to include multiple certification systems, including LEED, WELL, LBC, SITES, and PEER to name a few, bringing more people and systems into the conversation. This helps move the needle to think about sustainability as a truly holistic concept encompassing people, planet and prosperity as discussions of financial metrics, community impact and involvement and climate resilience become more integrated into the green building movement.
Eric Tilden, Project Manager
I had the opportunity to tour the Expo floor and was able to engage with product representatives and learn about sustainable elements and products available in the marketplace. A few innovative products that stood out included:
Otis Brand Elevators, which utilize kinetic energy to feed power back to the building grid and reduces the energy consumption of the elevator itself, which can often be 10-20% of a building’s operational energy usage.
Rada’s Healthcare focused touchless faucets, which change the temperature of the water without touching anything, as well as auto flush any stagnant water out of the piping. This is ideal for healthcare and hospital clients looking to reduce chances of spreading disease or bacteria, while also conserving water since they don’t have to let the water run to heat up. The heating element is built into the faucet, and not further upstream.
GSky wall plantings, which mix art décor with living systems. By creating indoor and outdoor planted wall systems, a building owner can increase oxygen levels in the room, create a living artwork centerpiece, and even noticeably cool the area without mechanical assistance.
Debbie Namugayi, Project Assistant
I spent the second day of Greenbuild exploring the Expo floor. This included meeting industry insiders from USGBC, consultants around the world, and speaking with a multitude of vendors.
When speaking with Director of Sustainability Strategy at Interface, Nadine Gudz, she helped demonstrate the distinction between simply offering sustainable products versus a having the guidance of a sustainability mission. An increasing number of organizations are driving toward defined values and a distinct sustainability mission to hit all three sectors of the triple bottom line: people, planet and prosperity.
My Greenbuild experience solidifies that the sustainability field is no longer just a movement, but now a major catalyst for change and stewardship.
Molly Seltzer, Project Assistant
Greenbuild showcased new and existing technologies in the marketplace. The vendors that filled the Expo hall were eager to demonstrate how their technology could enhance the performance of a building, save energy or emissions, or add value to a business by enhancing security, saving time, or various other reasons.
There is something about technology, human innovation in its most complex and amazing form, which grounds me. It reminds me that I am working in an amazing industry, one that can integrate into the everyday life of building occupants.
Deborah Hanamura, Director, Marketing & Communications
Greenbuild illuminated a consensus that the onslaught of green building standards is a new challenge and there aren’t a lot of solutions on the market yet to make those decisions easy. There seems to be an appetite for new and interesting approaches. However, adoption lags behind enthusiasm.
This is motivating for Paladino as an organization to dedicate ourselves to being on top of the trends and how we can help our clients navigate them.
Stephanie Heliker, Manager, Marketing & Communications
In a matter of a year, there is noticeable change in the way we discuss human health as it applies to sustainable building. Last year’s Greenbuild emphasized wellness as a growing trend – this year there are metrics to prove its incorporation in green building is actually valuable.
For example, the new WELL certification boasts over 20 million square feet of registered projects since the program kicked off last year. A post occupant survey for a WELL certification pilot at CBRE global corporate headquarters indicated that 83 percent of employees felt more productive in the new space, and 74 percent reported it had a positive impact on their business performance. As more projects register and data is collected, the evidence will be tangible to demonstrate the business value of health and wellness as an embedded building feature.
It’s promising to see that wellness has grown beyond a “trend” and is now synonymous with sustainability and green building.
Brad Pease, Vice President
A general topic of conversation this year seemed to shift from “where is the data” to “how do I lead others through change?” In other words, we are moving beyond the business case for green to actually trying to implement it, which could be the sign of a major turning point for the industry.