You could sense the optimism in the air at the recently concluded Greenbuild Conference and Expo where the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) officially launched LEED v4 and celebrated the organization’s 20th anniversary. Paladino served as technical editor and author of the LEED v4 Reference Guides.

Attendees were buzzing about the stark contrast to last year’s atmosphere that was dampened by the chemicals industry’s intense lobbying effort against LEED v4. “We can’t do it alone folks. So my simple message to anyone still on the fence is this: JOIN US!” exclaimed U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi at the conference held last month in Philadelphia.

Fedrizzi acknowledged this shift in tone, stating that the green building movement is growing with more than 100 nations now represented on the World Green Building Council.  Greenbuild conferences will be staged in Brazil and Italy next year.

3-D artwork at the entrance to the conference center
3-D artwork greeted attendees at the entrance to the convention center

Greenbuild Themes


LEED v4 continues to face aggressive criticism by chemical lobbyists who are unhappy with the material declarations requirements.One product manufacturer was touting its v4-compliant products but at the same time confessed the company is hoping to get the material declaration and regional material credits changed.

In a session on LEED v4 beta projects, those who had gone through the system acknowledged there were still issues to address. Still, they expressed enthusiasm for the continued push towards better performing buildings along with their appreciation for v4’s streamlined tools and forms.

The LEED v4 Reference Guides on display at Greenbuild
The LEED v4 Reference Guides on display at Greenbuild

Health and Green Buildings

Another theme running through Greenbuild was the connection to human health and wellness and green buildings. Speakers underscored the need for material declarations, but also grappled with issues of how the sustainability movement needs to engage underserved populations to benefit their health and wellness.

Women in Green

The second annual Women in Green Power Breakfast on Thursday morning was moved three times to accommodate larger groups – and sold out three times! Pulitzer-prize author Sheryl WuDunn, a co-founder of the Half the Sky movement, conducted a session focused on the moral challenge of gender inequity and how to make women part of the solution for poverty and sustainability issues.

Hilary Clinton, the conference’s keynote speaker, in a Q&A with Rick Fedrizzi, also focused on the importance of women in advancing sustainability. 

Hillary addresses a crowd at Greenbuild
Hillary Clinton addresses the crowd

Our Consultants’ Observations

With hundreds of sessions and events, 800+ exhibitors and 30,000 attendees, it’s impossible for one person to see and hear all that goes on at Greenbuild. I invited my colleagues who attended to share their top takeaways from the convention.

Kristen Dotson, Consultant, heard a call to up our collective game. “Between LEED v4, Net Zero, and Living Building Challenge, Greenbuild this year was all about raising the bar on green building yet again. All three ‘systems’ for evaluation were mentioned repeatedly in sessions, proving that regular green building strategies have gone mainstream; it’s time to raise the stakes again!”

Colm Otten, Senior Analyst, was also excited about LEED v4 – in particular, the dynamic plaque unveiled by Scot Horst, senior vice president, LEED. “The LEED v4 plaque goes where a lot of M&V efforts have feared to tread, giving feedback to the users of the building. By showing how well the building or space is doing in real time compared to similar ones both locally and globally, in the seven performance categories used by LEED v4, the plaque will powerfully influence the consumption behavior of occupants.”

A presentation on recertification discussed the dynamic plaque
A presentation on recertification focused on performance

Dieter Siperko, Analyst ,observed a cautious optimism about LEED v4. “Throughout my Greenbuild experience I noticed a common vibe coming from most speakers in relation to v4 — that the first few years would be tough as the industry fights to catch up to these new standards (primarily the new materials credits – previously ’gimmes’). However, there seemed to be a feeling that everyone had gone through this before, during v2009, and that they were up to the new challenge, excited to push new boundaries. Everyone I spoke to or listened to was upbeat regarding v4 and how the new system will once again shape the industry. There was more excitement than reluctance to get the new rating system started.”

Jeff Williford, Consultant, is also intrigued by the dynamic plaque. “I like the fact that the USGBC is attempting to lift the once ‘one and done’ new construction or core and shell projects to a place where they can track their operations indefinitely. This idea has the ability to transform green buildings from doing what needs to be done to achieve a certification, to being able to see, maintain, and improve upon performance on a real time scale.”

The LEED dynamic plaque on display at USGBC's office
A presentation on the LEED dynamic plaque revealed one on display at USGBC’s office

Hawkins Thomas, Consultant, was inspired by interacting with the manufacturers of products used on his projects. “It was great to see the same manufacturers whose materials I review on my LEED projects also at the Greenbuild Exhibit Hall. Really goes to show you which companies both are and will be industry leaders for years to come, not only in the fabrication of their products, but in corporate sustainability culture as well.”

A bike made of FCS certified wood in the expo hall!
A bike made of FCS certified wood in the expo hall!

 USGBC Invites “Troublemakers”

Attendees (and the USGBC) were fired up over the challenges ahead. Roger Platt, USGBC Senior Vice President, Global Policy & Law, declared “I need all of you to join the growing number of troublemakers,” at the closing plenary, inviting the audience to join Team Troublemaker. The invitation to join states, “Making history is always disruptive. The power of our green building movement is you. Join Team Troublemaker so we, as a movement, can harness our collective voices.”

Were you inspired to be an advocate for change after Greenbuild? What was your favorite theme or takeaway from the conference? What learnings do you plan to apply now that you’re back in the office? Share in the comments below, or tweet us on Twitter at

Greenbuild Nation 2013

Maggie Santolla is Marketing Communications Manager at Paladino and Company.

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