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Greenbuild San Francisco: A Game Changer

Posted in Blog on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 at 11:35 am No Comments
Greenbuild San Francisco: A Game Changer

By: Jonathan Burgess, LEED AP ND, BD+C
Project Manager, The Spinnaker Group

After an insightful and stimulating week at my first Greenbuild, I was eager to see how the US Green Building Council would wrap up their conference without shutting down the conversation and the excitement that had been created in San Francisco. Such a challenge is not unique to Greenbuild, as I’ve attended many-a-conference that becomes high-excitement mid-week and back-to-the-grind by Monday. However, with such a bold mission at hand and our planet’s future at stake, I was sure hoping the USGBC would not follow suit.

Indeed, they had lined up quite the list of closing plenary speakers, headlined by a longtime hero of mine, architect and Cradle to Cradle founder Bill McDonough. But with people’s attention focused on checking out of their hotel and catching their flight, would a last few token words of wisdom really help keep the momentum moving forward?

Enter stage left: Scot Horst (Senior VP of LEED at USGBC). Scot begins by reflecting on current events surrounding LEED and the green building movement. Namely, the debate with the American Chemistry Council over the new optional ‘Chemicals of Concern’ credit in the newest version of LEED, set to roll out sometime next year. More on that here.

Scot then draws a parallel between current arguments made by those resisting the addition of this credit to the arguments made by chemical companies against the banning of DDT by Rachel Carson in the 1960s. A very interesting comparison: one that both hit home Rick Fedrizzi’s message of persistence in his ‘We Are Right’ message the opening plenary but also polarized a complex issue and isolated a group of people that need to become champions of the USGBC’s core values.

Enter Bill McDonough: The Mediator. Through his Cradle to Cradle campaign, Bill has successfully collaborated with the same folks that the USGBC is currently doing battle with. During the course of 45 minutes Bill brings to the stage key players in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and even Dow Chemical itself (arguably one of the key players in the ACC’s opposition to the Chemicals of Concern credit). Bill’s point? One by one, Bill shows the crowd that these companies are willing to be part of the discussion and have found success in thinking about their business through the cradle-to-cradle lens.

What makes LEED successful has been and will always be its consensus-based approach to making decisions and transforming the marketplace. Making consensus-based decisions without inviting all the stakeholders into the room quickly turns consensus-based decisions into ‘special-interest’ based decisions. By opening up the discussion to the masses and working through complex problems we can achieve high levels of success and advance our mission forward.

Case in point: Did you read the story last year about the mass of online video gamers who, in 10 days, solved a complex protein binding problem that stumped scientists for a decade? Dr. Jane McGonigal amazed the crowd at the Greenbuild closing plenary by describing the untapped potential and problem-solving ability of the gaming industry and used it to illustrate Bill McDonough’s point: By opening up the conversation and drawing in others to help fix this mess we’re in, we can quite literally change the way the game is played.

Thank you USGBC and Greenbuild San Francisco for opening up this important conversation at your closing plenary, and for inviting others to help continue this discussion as we move forward towards Greenbuild 2013: I’ll see you Philly: Game On.