by Morgan Greenseth
On November 19 the Greenbuild 2008 conference kicked off in Boston, Mass. Approximately 30,000 people from all around the world attended the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) event, which featured four days of discussions, seminars, tours, 800 industry vendors and tons of networking opportunities.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu delivered the opening plenary with a poignant message: "We are all one. If you are hurting, I am hurting." His words set the tone for the rest of the conference, as attendees seemed to share a feeling of hopeful anticipation for the coming year, hinged on the results of the recent U.S. election.
Between getting inspired by talks like this, and ogling new products (at varying levels of "green") in the vast exhibition hall, I listened to lectures from celebrated movement leaders such as Van Jones, Majora Carter and Bill McKibben. Each discussed their current projects and offered tips for getting involved. Topics for the educational sessions ranged from sustainability and poverty to green teaching tools, to discussions examining specific LEED projects.
The building and construction industry is in a key state of transition and recognizes that currently frontline standards such as LEED are not the sole solution. Ambitious solutions like "living buildings" are the goals that will push the status quo to new levels in the future.
E.O.Wilson and Janine Benyus addressed this in the closing plenary discussion. If we design buildings to act as living organisms, they said, we can make a huge difference for our future. The advice they gave to the architects and designers in the room, was to look to nature for advice and use biomimcry in their designs.
The industry visionaries unveiled two new online resources that will help inspire designers to draw ideas from nature: The Encyclopedia of Life is an ambitious database project aggregating all published information about all the species known to this planet, from the thriving to the extinct. Asknature.org offers a more guided path for learning from nature, by providing designers with an open forum where they can share solutions and ask questions about biomimetic innovations.
What follows are several more descriptions of the most exciting new projects I learned about at the conference:
Image credit: Jetson Green
Project Frog: High Performance Classroom of the Future
Using the FROG Zero system of modular construction- a zero energy system, Project Frog designed and built the Classroom of the Future at the site of the Boston Expo and Convention Center. Attendees visited the space to experience its healthy, progressively designed learning environment. According to presenters, the modular unit cost 25 percent less to construct than competitive designs.
Image credit: Solaleya
Imagine a home that rotates with the sun, allowing you to enjoy sunlight at all times of the day. This home designed by Solaleya was developed in France. Rotation by remote control allows passive solar energy to light and heat the home. The dome-shaped homes are made from wood and insulated by cork. The major caveat: the design is currently best suited for rural areas, rather than for urban areas, where new development is much more sustainable. A model home has been built on a property about 90 minutes' drive from Manhattan for North American viewers to examine on their own.
Founded by Interface Inc., MissionZero.org is a new online sustainability network for companies, organizations and experts. It's a new way to stay informed yourself, and to inform others of your efforts and events. Think of it as the Facebook of sustainable business.
Image credits: Flickr:Inhambane
Sorry I didn't also write an article on Greenbuild; no time. But just to clarify on Project Frog (since that's my day job), we quote the pricing as 25% less than traditional stick-built construction (for equivalent fit & finish, program & materials), not competitors. (I'm actually not sure what our competitors charge.)