The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently held its 10th Greenbuild Conference and Expo in Toronto. Greenbuild is a gathering of architects, engineers, developers, contractors and builders interested in “greening” the built environment. This was the first time the conference was held outside the U.S., with more than 23,000 attendees from 108 countries (down from 27,000 attendees at last year’s show in Chicago). The 2012 Greenbuild show will be held in San Francisco.
This year’s Greenbuild theme was “NEXT,” reflecting the fact that the green building market has reached a certain critical mass over the past decade, causing many to ask, “What’s next?” It was an appropriate topic, seeing as, from much anecdotal evidence, use of the USGBCs own green building rating system, LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), has leveled off.
The conference’s NEXT discussions explored several ideas: living buildings, biomimicry (the study of Nature to learn her design secrets), green schools, ecodistricts (livable, walkable, sustainable neighborhoods), environmental product declarations (EPD), and benchmarking and metrics.
The EPD issue is particularly interesting for manufacturers. An EPD is a lifecycle assessment (LCA) of a material, product or system. It goes beyond a material safety and data sheet (MSDS) and provides the full picture of the impact, risks and environmental responsibility of a product. Expect EPDs to catch on in the U.S. as a means to qualify “green” claims, to address the LCA requirements of the draft LEED 2012, and to displace — to a certain extent — the growing market for third-party Eco-labels and “sustainability” accreditation.
Benchmarking and metrics was also an appropriate and timely topic for this USGBC conference, given some of the recent concerns about the real-world performance of LEED-rated buildings. There was much discussion regarding the draft 2012 LEED credits requiring measurement and verification, including the Reconcile Design and Actual Energy Performance credit that requires measurement and verification to obtain the credit. A measurement & verification (M&V) plan would be required, but the M&V provider would also have to “prepare and submit a final report to the project design team and the building owner that describes the M&V program and its outcomes,” including actual energy use compared to the projected use, defined by the “Optimize Energy Performance” credit.
There were many other interesting sessions, not the least of which was the Second Annual Legal Forum. I won’t go into much detail, but the topics discussed, from litigation and green construction contracts to the latest insurance products and “greenwashing,” may be indicators of the current status of the green building market.
For more information please contact InfoComm’s Sustainability Officer, Allen Weidman.