Greenbuild SF: Expanding the Conversation
By bringing Greenbuild to San Francisco this November, USGBC has come full circle back to its original birthplace, here in the Bay Area. The conference has surprisingly never been to California, and USGBC’s Northern California Chapter (USGBC-NCC) leadership is pretty psyched… and they have big plans to make sure that everyone coming will have a great Greenbuild experience.
Greenbuild host committee co-chair Andrea Traber, who is Principal of Sustainable Buildings and Communities for DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability, notes that it’s a great moment to host the event “…in the birthplace of the organization. California is an innovator in green buildings and sustainability. It’s been a strong movement since the early 1970s. And now we have research institutes, Silicon Valley, a thriving AEC community, and more. I think of California as the cradle of sustainable design. It’s not just the AEC professions but also the clients, communities, companies and universities that value these innovations and choices. Their objectives align with USGBC’s aims. And we cannot overlook that David Gottfried and Lynn Simon and Kristin Ralff Douglass and others started things right here.”
Dan Geiger, executive director of USGBC’s Northern California Chapter, says that Greenbuild will be big this year, in part because the Bay Area and California in general have been early adopters and longtime leaders.
“We have really enjoyed working with the national organization,” he says. “We have mapped out a ‘Road to Greenbuild.’ Part of our strategy is to bring in ‘not your usual suspects.’ We’re reaching way out beyond the AEC community. We have so much opportunity to do that in the Bay Area. This is powerful.”
Part of what Geiger is talking about is bringing Twitter, Google, and other companies to the table. Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, for example, will be one of the opening plenary speakers. (They are doing a building on Market Street, reportedly slated to be LEED Gold.)
This year’s Greenbuild (slated to be the most walkable Greenbuild ever) is about many things, but the umbrella issue could be called “expanding the conversation.” By this I mean the topics and the participants. It may be called the U.S. Green Building Council, but the organization has been tackling issues of sustainability that extend beyond the AEC community to the corporate world, the community scale, schools, technology, clean tech and much more. USGBC and USGBC-NCC (national and local) have been reaching out to a broad range of business and industry groups. There are more than 20 groups signed on as “Bioregional Partners.” The chairs feel that this is the best way to reach beyond USGBC membership.
And hosting what’s anticipated to be the largest Greenbuild ever (some 35,000 people are expected) in San Francisco seems, to many, apropos.
“Over 35 percent of our downtown commercial space is green or LEED-certified,” Geiger says. “People here understand the value from a financial and social sustainability standpoint.
As Greenbuild host committee co-chair Lynn N. Simon, founder of Simon & Associates, says, “The Bay Area is a living laboratory of sustainability on so many levels. San Francisco has been a leader in sustainability, and there’s the sheer density of our area’s cities. At the building scale, we have CALGreen, Title 24, and a host of core ‘requirements’ that have made our entire community a living example of green in action. People can come here and see what it means to live green, from airport to BART, eating organic downtown, the hotels, and the natural beauty of our region. Silicon Valley leaders are green leaders; we have many, many nonprofit leaders, and we have developers who are leading their industry in this arena. The Bay Area embraces this as good for people and good for business.”
“The best part of this has been working with all the amazing subcommittee chairs,” Simon adds. “I have learned so much from them and I am so inspired about their passion and energy. I think this is also a phenomenon of the USGBC and the Bay Area: there is a real commitment and volunteerism to go beyond your day job. I don’t know what other cities are like, but I know we have extraordinary people who want to do extraordinary things. I feel so grateful that I can volunteer with these folks.”