Greenbuild 2013 Culminates with Powerful Keynote on the Impact of Green Building by Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton | U.S. Green Building Council
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Hillary Clinton and Rick Fedrizzi
Hillary Clinton and Rick Fedrizzi

This week, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) welcomed nearly 25,000 green building professionals to Philadelphia for its 12th annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, the world's largest gathering dedicated to green building.

The conference, owned and produced by Hanley Wood, culminated Thursday evening with a rousing keynote address given by Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that celebrated the green building movement and work of the entire USGBC community.

"There's a lot I could say about the extraordinary work of the U.S. Green Building Council – because this really is when a small group of committed people actually start a movement that is changing the world,” said Clinton. "I find that we have some very good answers to the challenges we face if we think about how green construction and retrofitting have and will continue to create millions of good jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

In addition to discussing the economic benefits and jobs associated with green building, Clinton highlighted the importance of health and wellbeing within the built environment, themes that transcended throughout the conference.

“This movement is also about the health and wellbeing of our citizens, especially our children,” Clinton continued. Removing toxic building materials, improving air quality, encouraging creative lifestyles and walkable neighborhoods is a much healthier way to live…the movement is truly all about building the kind of future we want to leave to the next generation."

Thursday evening’s celebration began with remarks from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter welcoming the green building community before USGBC’s President, CEO and Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi addressed the crowd.

“In our work to bring sustainability to every community on the planet, and use the power of green building to do so, we’ve begun to see first hand what real market transformation looks like," said Fedrizzi. “We’ve expanded far beyond our core of believers, and even beyond our large base that believes sustainability is morally and intellectually the right thing to do. We have finally convinced the world that sustainability is more than just best practices in environmentalism.”

Greenbuild 2013 kicked-off a little early this year with the LEED Silver certification of Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles, where Rick Fedrizzi and Kimberly Lewis, USGBC’s senior vice president of conferences and events and community advancement, presented a LEED plaque to Eagles President Don Smolenski and co-owner Christina Weiss Lorie at Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins.

Other highlights from the week included Tuesday’s International Summit luncheon, sponsored by United Technologies Corporation (UTC), where Fedrizzi, joined by Rick McConnell, president of Hanley Wood Exhibitions, Mario Zoccatelli, president of GBC Italia, and Felipe Faria, president of GBC Brasil, announced that in 2014 Greenbuild will take the international stage with conferences in both respective regions.

“USGBC and Hanley Wood entered into a strategic partnership earlier this year with plans to expand the conference and the Greenbuild brand,” said Fedrizzi. “This new experience will serve as a platform for green building knowledge and shared expertise across continents, while scaling the breadth and reach of global market transformation.”

The Center for Green Schools at USGBC in partnership with the World Green Building Council announced another international collaboration with the newly formed Global Coalition for Green Schools, which works collectively to shape schools and communities to fundamentally change the way students learn about the world around them.

Each of the 29 founding members from all over the world have committed to establishing and leading a national coalition for green schools within each of their respective countries. The goal of these coalitions is to promote a shared vision of green schools for all within this generation.

“As members of the Global Coalition for Green Schools, we are united in our common pursuit of healthy, safe, resource-efficient schools that educate sustainability natives,” said Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC. “But what inspires us and keeps us humble is seeing how much we have to learn from one another. Our approaches to greening schools may look very different, but what we all desire is to give our children every possible opportunity to succeed.”

The Center for Green Schools at USGBC along with founding sponsor UTC also released a new independent nationwide survey that reveals 3 out of 4 Americans are supportive of green schools. The survey explores American’s attitudes toward the country’s public school buildings and investments to modernize school infrastructure and showed 90 percent of Americans think it is important to improve public school buildings.

“Every day 25 percent of Americans go to school as students, faculty, staff and administrators. Green schools improve learning, health and productivity, while lowering operating costs. There is measurable opportunity here to improve the day-to-day life for a quarter of Americans,” said John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer, UTC Building & Industrial Systems, at a press conference announcing the results. “These results show a tremendous level of public support for school infrastructure improvements and the investment they will require.”

The most anticipated news coming out of Greenbuild was the official launch of LEED v4, which builds on the fundamentals of previous versions while offering a new system that prepares all LEED projects in a portfolio to perform at a higher level.

LEED v4 encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria. Already, 122 beta projects from around the world are using LEED v4.

“LEED v4, at its core, provides insight into the synergies within the building system, providing solutions for optimizing performance, and ultimately achieving better environmental, economic and social outcomes in our buildings,” said Scot Horst, senior vice president of LEED, USGBC. “LEED v4 is the LEED of the future, where we challenge the marketplace to go further, to make the next great leap toward better, cleaner, healthier buildings where people live and work.”

Horst also announced an exciting strategic partnership between USGBC’s LEED and Underwriter Laboratories (UL), the world’s leading safety and certification group. The partnership is centered on building product transparency and occupant health and safety and is the first of its kind in the building and certification industry. LEED and UL will roll out several targeted initiatives focused on increasing disclosure, awareness and transparency of building product composition and the manufacturing processes. The goal of the program is to accelerate market transformation and the overall quality and performance of buildings.

Every year, Greenbuild hosts world leaders in business, environment and politics. In addition to Sec. Clinton, Nate Silver, statistician and author of The Signal and the Noise, closed out the conference along with U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan. The 2013 Master Series of speakers throughout the week included recognized architect, author, researcher and educator Edward Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030; Scot Horst, senior vice president of LEED, USGBC; community leader Ron Finley; best-selling author, business executive and lecturer Sheryl WuDunn, the first Asian-American reporter to win a Pulitzer Prize; Joe Van Belleghem, group head of sustainability for Lend Lease; and civil engineer Avery Bang with Bridges to Prosperity.

There were more than 100 education sessions, events and tours taking place at this year’s conference and more than 700 exhibitors on display. Iconic rock band Bon Jovi performed in a concert that had everyone in attendance on his or her feet.

According to the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, this year’s Greenbuild was projected to bring $29.8 million going toward the local economy. Every year Greenbuild introduces new goals and programs to ensure the conference stays on the cutting edge of sustainability. This year, USGBC worked with the Pennsylvania Convention Center to raise its waste diversion rate to 75 percent from its current 8 percent. To do this, a composting program as well as a three-stream recycling system with brand new signage was introduced.

“Philadelphia was the perfect city for Greenbuild — with its rich history and its forward thinking vision, much like Greenbuild itself,” said Kimberly Lewis, senior vice president, community advancement and conferences and events, USGBC. “As USGBC celebrates its 20th anniversary, we had the opportunity to reflect on how far the building industry has come and the work we still have ahead of us.”

In the end, this year’s Greenbuild was a call to action to the green building community and an effort to transcend beyond special interests and come together for a common mission.

“Let’s pack up our small tents of special interest and move into the big tent of collaboration and common purpose. Join us, and together we’ll find the renewed commitment, rekindled passion and the sense of fulfillment that goes with doing something that really matters,” concluded Fedrizzi.