Page N2.2 . 06 January 2010                     
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Greenbuild Report 2009


The Water Piece

One of Greenbuild's "master speakers," Peter Gleick, brought attention to water usage and how issues involving water are intertwined with the built environment — a particularly poignant topic to discuss in the Arizona desert. A scientist and cofounder of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, Gleick is one of the world's foremost experts on water resources, and authors a biennial series, The World's Water.

"It turns out the vast majority of the water we uses goes to cooling power plants," said Gleick, referring to the United States. "It's a great example of the connection between water and energy."

He added that about one-third of U.S. water use is for agriculture, and about 20 percent is residential.

Although water consumption is rising around the world, bringing environmental crisis to places such as the Colorado River and China's Yellow River, Gleick found one encouraging trend domestically. "Up until about 1980, demand for water grew in lockstep with the economy," he said. "Then something weird happened. In 1980 or so, we split these things apart. We use less water today in the United States for everything than we used in 1975. Since 1980 we've added about 80 million people without adding any water demand. Per-capita water use has gone down from 1,900 gallons to under 1,500 — a big drop."

At the same time, Gleick cautioned, much could change about water delivery systems to make them more sustainable. "We need to match the quality of the water we have with the quality of the water we need," he said. "We don't need to always use potable water for non-potable uses. But there's only one set of pipes. That's how the system was designed." He criticized the USGBC's LEED rating system for not properly addressing water use.

Residential Summit

A Residential Summit was held as a kind of conference within Greenbuild, a practice started at Greenbuild 2008 in Boston.

"Last year in Boston the market was going down, but there was a lot of optimism about what green could do," said Nate Kredich, the USBGC's vice president of residential market development. He explained that last year the USGBC initiated new programs, such as LEED for Homes and the Regreen residential remodeling program. But, Kredich added, "This year it's not enough. Hope is not a strategy. We're past that. It's time to start swinging a hammer. It's time for all of us to get to work."

Kredich also said the USGBC has endeavored to partner with a wide array of local and regional green building organizations on residential projects, such as Earth Advantage in the West and Minnesota Green Star in the Midwest. What's more, he added, "We've blown up the myth that green homes are just for high-end homes. One-third of the units we've certified thus far are affordable housing units."

The Residential Summit was moderated by Steve Thomas, host of the Renovation Nation show on the Planet Green cable TV network and, before that, longtime host of the popular PBS show This Old House. Thomas said that in traveling across the country for Renovation Nation, he has been surprised to find how many ordinary citizens outside the design and construction industries still don't really understand what makes a sustainably built home.

He offered an explanation he called the "five rings of green." "It starts with energy," Thomas said, "the total energy in and out that the house requires."

"The second ring is workmanship," he continued. "The old guys really knew how to detail buildings: a sidewall so it doesn't absorb water, or a window that doesn't leak. Workmanship is something that has suffered in my career and everybody else's.

"The third ring is materials. That is a big, diffuse ring with supply chain issues, chain of custody issues, and the impact of manufacturing of materials. It is the sum total of the impact of the material that goes into the building."

His fourth ring encompasses health-related issues, such as indoor air quality and toxicity. "Demographics tell us men are really interested in energy and women are really interested in health," Thomas said.

He concluded: "The fifth ring is design: the sum total of all of the design issues. It could be something simple like a smaller house. It also has to do with whether the building seems to fit in the neighborhood."

Green Exemplars

The backbone of any Greenbuild conference is its educational sessions, in which a variety of experts working in architecture, planning, construction, engineering, and other disciplines share what they've learned working on projects and problems all over the world.

This year, two of the sustainable design exemplars showcased at the conference were new offices for entities involved in putting on Greenbuild itself. The USGBC, the conference host, moved into its new headquarters in Washington, D.C. after a retrofit by Envision Design that earned a Platinum LEED-CI (Commercial Interiors) rating earlier this year. Autodesk, a major Greenbuild sponsor in the past, moved its AEC Division into new headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts, with an interior retrofit by KlingStubbins, also LEED-CI Platinum-certified.

Two educational sessions looked at the town of Greensburg, Kansas, which was entirely destroyed by a tornado in May 2007. This rural community, which turned out to be aptly named, has focused its rebuilding efforts on creating a sustainable green town in a model partnership between government, the private sector, and nonprofits. Leaders of Greensburg — people relatively unaware of sustainable design and construction before the tornado — were at Greenbuild to demonstrate how their knowledge and leadership in this field have grown along with what may become the highest concentration of LEED-rated buildings in the world.

One session highlighted the Omega Center for Sustainable Design in Rhinebeck, New York. Designed by BNIM Architects, the center is expected to achieve LEED Platinum certification from the USGBC and also to meet the Living Building Challenge, a program operated by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. The center features an Eco-Machine™, a water filtration system by John Todd Ecological Design that uses plants, bacteria, algae, snails, and fungi to process wastewater — about five million gallons (20 million liters) per year — from the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.

Combining Green and Historic

Another talk showcased three case studies demonstrating sustainable historic preservation and adaptive reuse, supporting the idea that green building circles have begun showing increased interest in older existing buildings.

Deborah J. Cooper of Architectural Resources Group talked about Fort Baker, a former military base in Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, that has been converted into the Cavallo Point spa and hotel resort.

Eric Soladay of Rumsey Engineers discussed the Linde + Robinson Laboratory, a 70,000-square-foot (6,500-square-meter) laboratory on the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) campus in Pasadena. The 1932 building contained a coelostat solar telescope that was repurposed in the renovation: the long tube that formerly held the telescope was used to distribute daylight to the lower levels and innermost spaces of the building. The lab is targeted for LEED Platinum certification.   >>>

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Over 27,000 people attended Greenbuild in Phoenix.
Photo: The HON Company Extra Large Image

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Each year, exemplary exhibitors receive awards at Greenbuild.
Photo: Bluebeam Software Extra Large Image

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Autodesk's AEC Division Headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts, designed by KlingStubbins, received its LEED-CI Platinum certification during a ceremony at the Greenbuild conference.
Photo: Jeff Goldberg/ ESTO/ Courtesy Autodesk Extra Large Image

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The LEED Platinum-rated new headquarters of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was the first project to be certified under the new LEED v3 system.
Photo: Eric Laignel/ Courtesy USGBC Extra Large Image

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Envision Design designed the new USGBC headquarters, which occupies two floors of a nine-story office building in northwest Washington, D.C.
Photo: Eric Laignel/ Courtesy USGBC Extra Large Image

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Salvaged 500-year-old gumwood and a variety of colored glass panels adorn the interior spaces of the USGBC headquarters.
Photo: Eric Laignel/ Courtesy USGBC Extra Large Image

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The Tempe Transportation Center is a 40,000-square-foot (3,700-square-meter) mixed-use project in Tempe, Arizona, centered on a multi-modal hub accommodating rail, bus, bike, car, and pedestrian modes of transit.
Photo: Nick Bastian Extra Large Image

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Submitted for LEED Platinum certification, the Tempe Transportation Center, designed by Otak and Architekton, employs a green roof, a solar hot-water system, and retractable exterior shading screens.
Photo: Nick Bastian Extra Large Image


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