My First GreenBuild
By: Jonathan Burgess, LEED AP ND, BD+C
“Where we learn matters!” That was the opening message of Rachel Gutter (Director, Center for Green Schools) as she helped officially kick off the highly successful GreenBuild 2012 in San Francisco last month.
While Rachel was speaking of the US Green Building Council’s recent core focus on greening K-12 school facilities across the United States, I couldn’t help but take that message a bit out of context. For it was my first ever Greenbuild; and I found myself in the front row of an opening plenary at the annual conference of a movement deeply passionate about its cause: Educating an entire industry about the importance of green building.
Indeed, where we learn does matter. And as such I found myself ecstatic to be attending such a gathering of high-minded and forward thinking green building leaders for the first time. It had been (what felt like) a long time coming. After years of build up by USGBC colleagues, friends– and more recently The Spinnaker Group coworkers– the stage was set. My expectations were high and my ears perked; ready to learn from leaders in the green building industry about how I too could better contribute to this movement through my work at TSG and in the community.
So as I sat through an opening ceremony wrought with political banter from elected officials, TV pundits and even USGBC leadership, I wondered whether this conference would live up to my own expectations. Would Greenbuild offer up bold solutions, tackle tough conversations, and encourage dialogue amongst key industry leaders the way I had been told? Or was it rather just another place for watered down messaging, vague discussions and soap boxing from political platforms? After a grueling couple of election years having wrapped up the week before, I was sure hoping for the former and not the latter.
Thankfully, when Rick Fedrizzi (President and CEO, USGBC) stepped out onto the stage, the tone was clear. Bold in demeanor and unapologetic in message, Rick conveyed the importance of Greenbuild and of his US Green Building Council organization: We were all in San Francisco to learn, because where we learn matters, but more importantly we were there to become empowered by what we’ve learned and to take those lessons back to our communities with newfound clarity and boldness.
“We are right,” rang throughout his opening speech as he described the importance of staying true to our mission. That confidence, that surety, that boldness in communicating that what we’re doing is important because it’s the right thing to do, is what has taken the USGBC’s message as far as it has in such a short period of time. It is that constant reminder that ‘we are right,’ which helps us have those tough conversations, to push the envelope, to try something new, and to challenge misconceptions.
Oftentimes that boldness to champion what’s right — over what’s easy, what will meet code, what costs less — is lost in the everyday decision making in our industry. After returning to project team meetings after my first Greenbuild, I can tell you this in reflection: It is occasions like Greenbuild that remind us ‘We are Right.’ Greenbuild is a place to learn not just how to build green, but also to learn why to build green… and where we learn matters.