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Greenbuild 2014: Expect inspiring transformation

Published on Written by Posted in Greenbuild

I suppose it should have stopped coming as a surprise years ago. Going back to 2005 in Atlanta, the annual speech the big man gives to open Greenbuild each year is a both a perfect reflection of the moment and an inspiring summary of the work we’ve all accomplished over the year. That said, I’d really miss the sense of excitement, connection and pride I get if the feelings Rick’s Greenbuild keynote instill in me ever go away.

In 2012, Rick threw down the gauntlet to the special interest groups aligned to protect their status quo with the “we are right!” speech. It was obvious in the moment that feathers were ruffled.

In 2013, based on, among other things, the resounding approval of LEED v4, Rick struck a very different tone with an invitation to those same groups to “join us!” It remains to be seen what comes of this invitation. 

This blog post is about what I’m hoping will happen. It’s about what I’m hoping he’ll be able to say in 2014 as well as a few thoughts about the work we need to do in order for him to be able to say it. 

Here’s what I’d like to hear Rick say to the folks he invited to join us in Philly when we get together again in New Orleans in 2014: “Congratulations, great work, thank you, let’s do more!”

Here’s what I think it’s going to take: we each need to recommit ourselves to the essential partnership between manufacturers, designers, constructors, operators and everyone else involved, acknowledge that we’re collectively at the late beginnings of this marathon and embrace the reality that there’s a huge amount of work ahead of all of us. We also need to accept that the current state of the industry that supplies the things we make buildings out of is improving but still far from acceptable – to say nothing of being desirable. The transformation we’re in the midst of can’t happen overnight. While it’s underway, we have a collective responsibility to support the manufacturers who demonstrate leadership even when, perhaps especially when, they tell us things we’re not happy to hear provided they are also demonstrating either real progress or a commitment to improve. I talked to a number of manufacturers in Philadelphia during Greenbuild that were eager to reassert the exemplary leadership they exhibited in the early 2000’s. Most of them also expressed at least some degree of concern about how, as a result of the information and progress we all want to see and reward, drastically different the stakes are this time. It’s true. The issues are different but so are we. The stakes are higher but our success matters more now than it ever has. We’re more sophisticated as an industry. We are an industry now –remarkable in its own right.  We’re capable of pragmatically assessing trade-offs while simultaneously thinking about absolutes. In short – we’ve been building to this moment and we’re ready for it.

Either way you cut it, we’re past the inspiring moonshot visioning stage. The goals are set. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and start grinding out the incredibly difficult work that’s often the only way to achieve the flashes of genius we’re going to need to succeed. I’ve always thought that it’s ironic that one of the criticisms of what we’re trying to do is that this investment of effort is going to cost us money – in truth it’s only out of this difficult work that opportunity to make vastly larger amounts of money are realized (to say nothing of the social and environmental benefit that will accompany this progress). There will be discouraging moments, times when the whole effort seems hopeless and a sustained and aggressive effort to derail progress (in my view, we actually agree on more than it would be in the best interests of ACC’s broader agenda of obstructionism to admit to but that’s a story for a different post). But if even half of the optimism I saw, heard and felt during Greenbuild is real, we’ve got every reason to expect inspiring transformation. I’m, as always, thrilled that I get to be part of this with you – let’s get on with it.

I’d like to close by thanking Bill Walsh. He knows why I’m thanking him and if you’re interested, buy me a beer sometime and I’ll tell you a story.

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    Brendan Owens made 10 contributions in the last 6 months

Brendan Owens

VP, LEED Technical Development U.S. Green Building Council

1 commentLeave a comment

Nice article. We'd hope to be able to attend in New Orleans. Our construction company is striving to do our share. Thank you. http://coursecontracting.com/

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