Greenbuild 2016 emphasizes technology, transparency, social issues

October 14, 2016

By Sarah Bousquet

Green build 2016, LA Convention Center.

Green build 2016, LA Convention Center.

This year’s Greenbuild, held Oct. 5-7 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, utilized its Southern California locale to pay homage to the great buildings of our time. Themed “Iconic Green,” the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building touted the mantra, “Like iconic screen roles and the Hollywood sign, our buildings have withstood the test of time.”

Owned and operated by Informa and presented by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Greenbuild attracts 20,000-plus attendees and more than 500 exhibitors each year from across the green building sector—including commercial and residential professionals, educators, architects, building owners/operators, students and advocates. In its 15th year, Greenbuild continued to celebrate and share the ideals and passions of the green building community of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

“When we think of icons, we conjure up images of people, places and things that withstand the test of time, symbolizing our beliefs, culture and community,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. Keeping the iconic theme alive, Greenbuild 2016 speakers included famed architect Bjarke Ingels, renowned author and journalist Sebastian Junger, and USGBC’s own Mahesh Ramanujam, who will replace Fedrizzi as CEO next year. Topics ranged from social sustainability to transparency to technology.

Exhibitors and attendees alike looked to learn, collaborate and network with like-minded peers. First-time attendee Martin Smith, LEED AP BD+C and associate project manager with Verdical Group, was pleasantly surprised by the show’s energy and presence. “I wasn’t expecting it to be this elaborate,” he said, describing both the exhibit hall floor and educational sessions as impressive. “There’s everything from tiny LEED houses on the showroom floor to information modeling demos and discussions on preparing skyscrapers to be resilient refuges in times of need. It’s pretty impressive.”

So-called veterans of the show, however, noted smaller crowds than in years past. For some exhibitors this resulted in a decline in foot traffic on the show floor. But, attendees like Kris Callori, principal architect and LEED fellow at EDI Integrative Consulting, preferred the less crowded expo. “Whether it’s just the layout of the LA Convention Center or there are actually less attendees, it definitely feels less crowded and is easier to converse,” she said. “The exhibit hall is very engaging this year, and the sessions are forward thinking which is encouraging more conversations.”

 

ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY

Advancements in technology often spur industry innovations. One of the most prevalent unveilings at this year’s Greenbuild was the announcement of Autocase, a joint venture between USGBC and Impact Infrastructure. In short, Autocase is an automated business case software for green design created to help the A&D community prioritize investments to meet the requirements of the owner, improve the health and productivity of occupants and create value for the community and environment.

“With Autocase we are trying to get designers to think about the value of their decisions,” Ramanujam said. “If you use an economic model and then run this analysis in real time, it helps add value to every project—social, financial and sustainable outcomes.”

The web-based tool analyzes and reports bottom-line values—economic, social and environmental costs and benefits—of infrastructure projects. Teams can then assess the triple bottom line impact of design changes immediately and use the information to increase their chances to win financing and buy-in from the community.

USGBC tied the introduction of the new tool to its Greenbuild announcement that the organization will refocus its mission, scaling from just buildings to communities, cities and beyond. “This tool is consistent with our goal to bring a data-driven strategy that’s as simple to use as possible to the industry,” Ramanujam explained. “This solution is global, and it’s in line with our mission. Technology that is about the health of our communities.”

 

FOCUS ON TRANSPARENCY

While materials still top the charts of most discussed topics on Greenbuild’s exhibit hall floor, the focus has shifted. Where the reduce, reuse, recycle trifecta used to act as the end-all, be-all when specifying flooring, retailers, architects, designers and consumers alike want to make the right decisions when choosing an ecologically sound product today. Answering the call, many mills are finding ways to have a more transparent dialogue with consumers.

“The green building community has continuously been asking for Red List free products, and we responded,” said George Bandy, Mohawk’s vice president of sustainability. Mohawk Group participates in the Living Building Challenge Declare program to provide “nutrition labels” for more than 500 of its building products. The aim is to fill the information gap that exists today by answering three simple questions: Where does a product come from? What is it made of? And where does it go at the end of its life.

Interface's Climate Takeback focuses on reversing negative impacts on environment, climate.

Interface’s Climate Takeback focuses on reversing negative impacts on environment, climate.

Similarly, Interface shared details of its latest mission, dubbed Climate Takeback, which it launched earlier this year at NeoCon. With this charge, the company is looking to foster more transparent conversations around four big changes: 1. Only take what can be replaced; 2. See carbon as a resource; 3. Restore nature’s proven ability to cool; and 4. Revolutionize industries.

“This is not necessarily a new way of thinking for Interface,” explained Nadine Gudz, director, sustainability strategy. “Our founder, Ray Anderson, was asking in the ’90s how we can have both a restorative and regenerative business and supply chain, but we’re now starting to see the networks, tools and collaborations to get there.”

 

SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY

Rochelle Routman, chief sustainability officer for Metroflor, took the opportunity to announce a new two-fold green approach. First, she too noted the company will focus on transparency within the Declare label system—it’s already the first manufacturer to have a label with full transparency on the resilient side with its Aspecta Five product. Metroflor’s second leg, however, highlights a topic that’s growing in popularity in the green building design community: social sustainability. “We want to open the world’s eyes to our partnership with our Asian mills,” she explained. “We are not only impressed by their efficiency and sustainability, but also the way they treat people. We want to build out the social justice part of sustainability that has to some degree been ignored up to this point.”

Also examining the social side of sustainability is Nora, which will be launching a new initiative in social equity next year. “We believe in the triple bottom line of sustainability: people, planet and profit,” said Tim Cole, vice president of marketing. “We’ve always been committed to social equity but realize we need to raise the bar in 2017. When people you work with are excited about sustainability and asking how they can be involved, it really is an amazing thing.”

John Cantrell, director of marketing for Shaw Contract, agreed that moving manufacturers and products into a different dimension of sustainability is important. “We’re looking more at the impacts we share with our clients and can have on the planet,” he said. “Greenbuild is different from, say, a trade show because it gives us the opportunity to talk about solutions, share stories and discuss innovations rather than just hone in on products.”

Shaw’s booth, for example was designed to appeal to the varying aspects of environmental health, sustainability programs and a circular economy. “Green means different things to different people,” Cantrell said. “Human health seems to be one of the biggest interests, as product materials have had a lot of attention and now we’re moving to more social sustainability.”

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