Greenbuild in Boston
Speaking in the context of a gloomy economic climate, Menino announced that he had just awarded a contract to the Asian American Civic Association to train Boston residents for "green-collar jobs," including tasks related to improving the sustainability of the built environment.
When Fedrizzi took to the stage, his enthusiasm about green building was palpable. Echoing Menino's sentiments, Fedrizzi made the case for a green economy. His goal is for 2.5 million green jobs to be created within the next three years, by collaborating with mayors and governors to implement sustainable policies, such public transit and green buildings, that will necessitate trained workers.
Fedrizzi also emphasized the environmental importance of implementing green building practices ubiquitously. The building industry represents 15 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). In working with the building industry to create a more sustainable environment, Fedrizzi hopes that, within a generation, all buildings — from hospitals to schools to homes — will be green.
Sustainability as a Human Right
The African Children's Choir performed to celebrate the recently launched South African Green Building Council and to highlight the international potential of the USGBC, while providing an energetic segue to South African keynote speaker Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town.
Tutu received the Nobel Peace Price in 1984 for his fight to end Apartheid in South Africa. Although he retired as archbishop in 1996, Tutu continues to work as an activist fighting for equality; his speech reflected his dedication to establishing peace.
Tutu remarked on the growth of the green building movement, commenting that "sometimes you don't recognize when you are part of a revolution." It is essential to support green building practice, said Tutu, asserting that "to not care about the environment is like not to care about egregious human rights violations."
He went on to commend U.S. voters for electing Barack Obama the next President of the United States. Tutu called the election a world-changing event that has resulted in people everywhere "walking taller." Obama represents not only a new era of politics, Tutu said, but also a new era of thought, one that he hopes will ease the transition from a polluting to a conserving society on a global level.
And the need for this transition is of utmost importance. Climate change is not just a theory, but "a disaster happening now," he said, with a variety of impacts, including droughts that are prompting tribal warfare in rural agricultural communities in Africa. And that kind of event is predicted to increase in frequency with global warming.
The solution to the escalating problem of climate change is simple, according to Tutu: stop spending money on needless wars and instead invest in human life. "There is enough in the world for everyone's need," he said, "not enough for anyone's greed," noting that only a small portion of the money currently spent on war would be needed to provide food, water, medicine, and shelter to those without.
As Tutu exhorted the audience to help him, and each other, by continuing the work highlighted at Greenbuild 2008, the hall filled with the resounding sound of 10,000 people clapping.
Green Expo and Beyond
The Greenbuild expo floor offered a panoply of new products, techniques, and sustainable solutions ranging from wind turbines to environmentally friendly paint and efficient lighting products.
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Real estate group Gale International promoted the environmental features of its Songdo International Business District, located on a 1,500-acre (600-hectare) artificial island in the Yellow Sea off the coast of Incheon, South Korea. Kohn Pedersen Fox master-planned the development, which is due for completion in 2014.
Songdo is planned around a 100-acre (40-hectare) central park, and 40 percent of the buildable area will be dedicated to open space. This will include small parks in the residential districts and trails along the island's waterfront. Seawater canals throughout the island will provide infrastructure for water taxis that will link outlying residential districts with central business districts. Every building on the island will be LEED-certified, and the city has been chosen as a pilot for the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating.
In one of the many lectures and workshops at Greenbuild, Stefan Behnisch, principal of Behnisch Architects, talked about creating environmentally conscious buildings, such as the LEED Platinum-certified Genzyme Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was named one of the Top Ten Green Projects of 2004 by the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA/COTE).
The Genzyme Center is entirely daylit; heliostats and a large chandelier redirect sunlight so that every portion of the building can be lit naturally. By bringing nature inside, Behnisch created a dynamic and sustainable office building.
Preserving and Sustaining
In another talk, Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and founder of the Sustainable Preservation Coalition, spoke about building preservation as one method for achieving sustainability.
Retrofitting existing buildings to accommodate new uses consumes fewer resources than constructing new buildings from scratch, and also creates more jobs, according to Moe. He also suggested that the small scale of historic neighborhoods provides a ready model for more sensitive urban planning.
Moe and other leaders in preservation, architecture, green building, and energy technology recently developed the Pocantico Proclamation on Sustainability and Preservation, seeking to change the way that architects and preservationists interact. The goals listed therein include promoting reuse and community reinvestment, and updating preservation practices to increase sustainability.
Moe is working with the USGBC to update LEED standards to include more point opportunities for preservation. Buildings such as the Gerding Theater at the Armory in Portland, Oregon, which is certified LEED Platinum, and the LEED Gold-rated Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center at the Lincoln Cottage in Washington, D.C., demonstrate the potential of preserved buildings to be sustainable.
The National Trust Preservation Green Lab has been established to improve energy efficiency while protecting the integrity of historic homes. The Green Lab will also work to improve building codes for historic buildings so that they include provisions for energy efficiency and sustainability.
Green for All
On the hot topic of a sustainable economy, another speaker was Van Jones, founder and president of Green For All, an organization that "fights both poverty and pollution at the same time" by advocating for programs that train people from disadvantaged communities for green-collar jobs.
Our current economy, said Jones, is based on placing consumption over production, creating economic growth out of debt instead of savings, and destroying rather than restoring the environment.
Jones advocated for a new, green economy that will simultaneously fight poverty and environmental destruction by producing goods and services locally, preserving resources and saving money, and practicing environmental restoration.
He proposed a revolving loan fund, established by the government, to provide the capital needed to weatherize buildings across the United States. Cities would use the fund to retrofit buildings and then pay back the loan using money saved by the reduced energy costs.
Jones singled out architects as key arbiters of the green economy. This theme ran throughout the speeches at Greenbuild 2008: the urgent need for architects to effect real change in the way our culture treats the environment — and the prospect of manifold benefits of that action.
Greenbuild 2008 was held November 19 to 21 at the Boston Convention Center in Boston, Massachusetts.
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Anya Meekins writes about architecture from Wellesley, Massachusetts.