Setting the Stage for GreenBuild 2012

Are you going to GreenBuild 2012?


GreenBuild

If so, you'll be in good company. The 11th annual gathering of all those involved in 'building green' into the national fabric looks set to be the biggest yet – with 35,000 architects, facility managers, educators and green innovators expected to talk, walk and network their way around the Moscone Convention Center (LEED Gold certified of course).

After last year's excursion north of the border (up to Canada's Toronto), GreenBuild 2012 finds itself heading west, to what many consider the spiritual home of the green economy and environmentally-sensitive building – California's Bay Area. Both innovator and leader, San Fransisco's downtown area now has over a third of its commercial stock certified to LEED standard, or the equivalent.

Running from the 12th to the 16th of November (with the Expo open on the 14th and 15th), Greenbuild 2012 will be offering up the usual mix of exhibitions, educational opportunities, first-class speakers, exemplary eco-building tours and the chance to hook into the latest happenings on the green building scene. Two complementary conferences are planned, the National Affordable Green Homes & Sustainable Communities Summit, which seeks a sustainability that is fully socially-inclusive; and VERGE, the green-ideas-festival looking to catalyze a radical urban transformation.

What's on the Agenda?


At Greenbuild itself, the on-platform talk is likely to be crammed with the buzz-phrases of convergence, 'expanding the conversation', and of the holistic integration of the green building standards into the wider community. But off-platform, much discussion is bound to concern LEED V4 – as LEED 2012 has become – and the fact that this major plank of the USGBC's ongoing certification evolution won't be in attendance. Originally LEED 2012 was pegged to be launched in San Fransisco, but due to the outcry from stakeholders, it has been pushed back to June 2013.

That absence is symptomatic of an industry in state-of-flux. While the tide is still strongly flowing in favor of a deepening greening of the US building fabric – more than a quarter of all new building activity in 2010 was green, and professionals employed in green-building now number 660,000 – an air of uncertainty hangs over the sector.  The growing impact of LEED itself, on the mainstream construction industry, is generating reaction.

The very success of the USGBC is part of the reason why the LEED 2012 process has stumbled, and become increasingly snared in controversy. The long-running feud between the USGBC and parts of the American timber industry – who object to LEED credits being given only to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accredited timber – has been joined by the chemical industry, who object to the new focus on chemicals of concern.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is worried about LEED v4 proposals that would give more credits to projects that forego the use of certain plastic and chemical products. A letter to the USGBC was quickly followed by action in Congress, with many members pressing for the US General Services Administration (GSA) to stop using LEED in its building certifications. That follows legislation that prohibits the Department of Defense (DOD) from using funds to take DOD buildings to the highest levels of LEED certification.

Despite the backlash, within the green building industry, excitement still surrounds the release of LEED V4 and the direction that the industry is going. In addition to increases in the technical standards and minimum requirements of LEED, the program is also trying to widen its net. The new system will now cover buildings such as data centers, warehouses and homes taller than three stories, among others. LEED V4 also aims to be more internationally friendly and flexible to the varying conditions of different climates and infrastructures. Historically, as LEED standards have become more stringent, building codes and the overall construction industry have followed, making the release of each new version of LEED an important moment in this continuing evolution.

With LEED's starring role in green certification being challenged by vested interests, the debate over LEED's future is really heating up. So perhaps more than ever, it is important to be part of GreenBuild conversation, and to add your voice to a debate that will help shape the future of green in the building sector.

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Tags: 2012, Certification, Efficiency, Energy, Greenbuild, LEED

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