Dane Englert
4 minute read

Green building professionals gathered to learn about the power of LEED to achieve more sustainable buildings.

The seventh annual USGBC Arizona State Conference was a big success. Over 100 industry professionals from all over Arizona gathered at the Tempe Center for the Arts to listen to presentations on the power of LEED as a third-party certification and verification to achieve higher-quality and more sustainable buildings. The variety of topics showed comprehensive support for the power of LEED certification.

Gary Pivo, Ph.D., University of Arizona, our first presenter in the morning, discussed the economic power of LEED as a financial differentiator. His studies and others have shown tangible economic benefits beyond higher performance and energy-efficient building operations. Through peer-reviewed articles, he presented a strong case for lower loan default rates, higher market value and much happier tenants attributed to LEED-certified buildings.

We heard from Julie Sinistore, Ph.D., Project Director, Sustainability, Energy and Climate Change, WSP USA. Julie is an expert on life cycle assessment (LCA), which is the least implemented credit in the LEED v4 Materials and Resources category. We learned about the power of LCA to paint the long picture of buildings and materials, and why it’s important for transforming the built environment. With due diligence, anyone can achieve LCA credits on their next project. We also learned about Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), and how they are used in LCA and life cycle thinking.

Kirsten Shaw, LEED for Homes rater, Advanced Energy Efficiency and Environmental Quality, LLC, discussed what you miss out on when your home isn’t third-party-certified. We can’t rely on builders and city code officials to ensure homes are insulated correctly and built to be energy-efficient. Shaw showed numerous examples of extremely deficient work in new and renovated home insulation and air sealing. She demonstrated how the power of LEED certification is keeping home builders honest.

During lunch, Garrett Wong, the chair of USGBC Arizona's Emerging Professionals committee, was honored with the Volunteer of the Year Award for his outstanding dedication and efforts in the Arizona community. 

After lunch, we heard from David Hertzberg, Principal, Circonomy Solutions, about trash, recycling construction and demolition materials. The market has changed drastically since China’s plastic ban was put into place. The low cost to landfill in the Phoenix metro area is a huge challenge for the vitality of the recycling market. The power of LEED certification helps transform the market toward landfill diversion. We learned the do's and don’ts of landfill diversion for LEED projects and how to track it. Tracking and trust are key when choosing a vendor.

Dede Yazzie Devine and Joe Keeper have worked for Native American Connections (NAC), a nonprofit company, for over 50 years, combined. Their presentation tied in the important aspect of social equity in the built environment. They presented on their company’s mission to support Native American families in central Phoenix. NAC has built and operates a portfolio of LEED-certified, market-rate, low-income, and homeless assistance multifamily housing, eight of which are LEED Platinum, two of which are LEED Gold and one LEED Silver. They construct LEED buildings because it supports their mission as a powerful framework to develop energy-efficient communities that ensure a small environmental footprint.

Our keynote speaker, Todd Gamboa, President, Building Trust, LLC, taught us how to talk about high-performing buildings with our customers. He shared examples of how to have more productive conversations that move our LEED projects forward, and discussed the benefits of sustainable building and how to convert customers to adopting LEED. The power of LEED building standards is most visible when we speak to the value in a way our customers understand.

After the conference, there was a reception and a human foosball showdown, won by Henderson Engineers. We also want to thank our event sponsors, whose support helped us execute this event.