Hillary Clinton, political rockstar, Greenbuild 2013

28 November 2013 – SPINIFEX: The message from the US Green Building Council’s annual Greenbuild conference was one of positivity and collaboration.

Attended by more than 25,000 people the conference was designed to inspire and equip a broad audience to create a better built environment, and it definitely delivered.

The first session I attended, The Rush for Resilience, dealt with the need for climate change adaptation planning with a rousing performance from Bob Dixson, the politically independent Mayor of Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was wiped out by a tornado in 2007.

Six years on Greensburg now boasts the highest number of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum buildings per capita which is remarkable.

Climate disasters cost more than education and infrastructure

A stunning statistic was offered by moderator Jay Carson, chief executive officer of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group – US$200 billion of federal funds were spent on recovery from natural disasters in 2012, more than on either education or infrastructure.

Also addressing the delegates were Major General Warren Edwards, from the Community and Regional Resilience Institute and Jon Powers, “Obama’s environment man” – some impressive minds being put to an essential task.

Edward Mazria, architect and founder of the non-profit Architecture 2030 also provided striking words and deeds. Continuing to drive the “2030 Challenge” advocating carbon neutral buildings, Mazria noted that 84 billion square metres of new space will be built (or rebuilt) in cities worldwide by 2030, giving architects, builders and planners an amazing opportunity.

“How we plan and design the built environment from here on out will determine whether climate change is manageable or catastrophic.”

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, Greenbuild 2013

With this compelling call to action he launched the 2030 Palette, an open source platform providing guidance and case studies for low carbon, resilient environments and buildings.

Providing global content and an invitation for feedback, this is an impressive looking tool and free to access – check it out at www.2030palette.org.

The Living Building Challenge platform featured in several sessions, discussing principles of net zero energy and biophilia (love of life and nature) and its influences on wellbeing and productivity.

Case studies included the Google Bay View campus in California and Seattle’s Bullitt Centre. Also on the net zero energy theme KEMA director (and University of South Australian grad) Shayne Rolfe and others described the successful net zero retrofit of three office spaces for DPR Construction.

And Fedrizzi said…

So much for the education – how about the inspiration? USGBC’s CEO, Rick Fedrizzi put his powers of motivation to good use, although with not quite as much evangelical zeal as last year.

At his own admission, he may have got “a bit carried away” in 2013. Calling on the mass assembled in Temple University’s Liacouras Center – and global green building advocates and rating systems everywhere – to “Join Us” to change the world.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton: political rockstar

He was of course the warm up act for someone who may in future have the mandate to do just that, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton represented her green credentials well in an impressive speech that cited sustainability as a top priority for the US and encouraged the audience to make their voices heard in the political sphere.

More impressive was the Q and A performance that followed, when she cited the need for political compromise for the common good and for America to consider its position on the world stage. The unofficial campaigners handing out “I’m Ready for Hillary” stickers outside the venue seemed to have struck a chord with much of the audience – this is what a political rock star looks like.

As a slightly incongruous follow up act, Bon Jovi gave good rock and roll to round out the evening.

Next day it was back to green building business with Roger Platt (USGBC’s “troublemaker in chief”) reiterating the “Join Us” theme in concert with Hillary’s call to use our political influence – “get in the face of the purveyors of popular wisdom”.

And then it was all over with Nate Silver’s own special take on statistics and poker, separating the signal from the noise.

With an intense combination of team bonding, side meetings, chance encounters and intellectual stimulation, Greenbuild 2013 was three days of green brotherly love.

Rebecca Pearce is senior director, EMEA head of sustainability, CBRE, based in London