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Living Future 2012 Was a Riot

Posted May 10, 2012 3:52 PM by Nadav Malin
Related Categories: BuildingGreen's Top Stories, The Industry

Now in its seventh year, the annual gathering of Living Building Challenge project teams and their kin—known as Living Future—has really hit its stride.

Reinventing the materials supply chain is not for the faint-of-heart!
Photo Credit: Eden Brukman, ILFI

The annual Living Future event rotates between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland, the three hubs of Cascadia Green Building Council, which is a chapter of both the U.S. and Canada Green Building Councils and a program within the relatively new International Living Future Institute (ILFI). (Jason McLennan, CEO of the Cascadia GBC and ILFI, is not one to follow the rules, and his organizations routinely flout the policies of their parent organizations.)

The “un-conference”

In line with that anarchistic theme, Living Future is not a “conference,”—it’s an “un-conference,” which is both a narcissistic gesture (we’re too cool to like conferences) and a welcome invitation to explore alternative formats for sessions, meals, and parties. In food-truck-happy Portland, for example, instead of serving us lunch in the hotel, Living Future gave everyone coupons for lunch at one of the dozens of nearby food carts.

They even took advantage of Portland’s innovative GoBox service to eliminate disposable containers. The inconvenience of having to go out and get lunch was offset by the treat of getting outside and engaging with the local (off-beat) culture.

The theme this year was “Women Changing the World,” and the conference did a nice job of exploring feminist perspectives without making (most of) the men feel threatened.

Is Worker Safety a Missing Piece of the Green Puzzle?

Posted January 7, 2010 10:28 AM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: LEED, The Industry
If the jobsite for a green building isn't any safer than the jobsite for a conventional building, is something missing from our definition of "green"? That is the question raised by a new study, "Impact of Green Building Design and Construction on Worker Safety and Health," published in October in the Journal of Construction Engineering and Management. The authors--two university professors and a safety supervisor with the Hoffman Construction Company in Portland, Oregon, went hunting for any statistical difference in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable and lost time injury and illness data for green and nongreen projects. The number of projects surveyed, 86 (38 green and 48 nongreen) is modest but impressive, considering the difficulty in extracting data from firms. Nine of 15 firms surveyed supplied data. For statistics geeks, the study reveals some suggestive tidbits, but bottom line?

AIA Responding to Green Building Concerns

Posted December 4, 2009 4:44 PM by Allyson Wendt
Related Categories: The Industry
In this month's feature article, I talk about the risks of green building. I note that one of the problems with model contracts, such as those from AIA, is that they don't adequately address issues of green building technology, performance, or certification. Of course, a few days after that article goes live, AIA releases a model scope of services defining an architect's role in LEED certification. That document is available (for $6) here.

Is LEED on Track to Save the World?

Posted November 30, 2009 6:09 PM by Nadav Malin
Related Categories: LEED, Op-Ed, The Industry
Rob Watson recently published "Green Building Market & Impact Report," his second annual report on the impact LEED is having in addressing environmental problems. The report highlights the continuing remarkable expansion of LEED: 2009 registrations for new design and construction projects in the U.S. may actually exceed total new construction starts! (This is possible because projects don't typically register when they start construction, and a flurry of projects were registered just before the requirement to use LEED 2009 kicked in, to keep their options open.) Watson takes note of the shift from whole building construction to Commercial Interior tenant fit-outs (CI) and Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (EBOM) registration and certification. And he compares 2009 certifications to registration numbers from 2006 and 2007 to see what fraction of projects are making it through the system.

Green Economies of Scale (post-Greenbuild ruminations)

Posted November 30, 2009 5:42 PM by Jennifer Atlee
Related Categories: Greenbuild '09, Op-Ed, The Industry
By the end of Greenbuild, I was exhausted/troubled/elated with all sorts of conundrums swirling around in my head — not to mention a few partly written blogs, abandoned in favor of the next conversation... ... I had wanted to write about the 'executive roundtable' that happened that Wednesday — and responses to the twitter-submitted question "what single thing would have to change to make buildings actually regenerative?" (as in, way past 'less damaging' — past neutrality, even). I was encouraged to hear the execs express what I see as core issues (summarized and/or quoted below — no, I didn't record who said what):
  • Waste and consumption is ridiculously cheap. If energy costs go up to the tune of $150/barrel for oil (or on-site renewables became radically cheaper), and/or if a cost is attached to emissions (not just air — also sewer and solid waste), we could get there.
  • Our financial accounting systematically discounts the future. "We're trapped in a paradigm of net present value (NPV) — one of the worst tools known to man.... We need a new tool — 'Net Future Value'...

A Wider View of Social Justice

Posted November 18, 2009 11:31 AM by Allyson Wendt
Related Categories: The Industry
In October, we published an article on social justice and green building. We've gotten several responses, including a letter from Raphael Sperry of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (below). Sperry makes several good points, and is right that a proper discussion of social justice and the built environment includes much larger inequities than any single building can fix. But designers have an opportunity to make a difference with every project they touch--not just the buildings for socially conscious clients--and most need practical guidance on where to start. Our goal with the article was not to end a discussion, but to start one that we hope will continue for some time to come. This blog post and its comments section are the first step in that conversation. Stay tuned for more! Your October feature on "Integrating Social Justice into Green Design" contains some good first steps for designers who may be unfamiliar with the issue, but leaves the most important topics in this area undiscussed.

Alex Wilson and Peter Yost Interviews

Posted November 18, 2009 10:02 AM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: Behind the Scenes, The Industry
These shorts were filmed at West Coast Green; for more like them, see

Buildings For the People

Posted September 25, 2009 1:09 PM by Allyson Wendt
Related Categories: The Industry
Social justice--it's a topic of conversation throughout the green building industry, but what does it mean, exactly? And how does it relate to buildings? I worked with the following definition while writing this month's feature article: Social justice ensures that all people have the ability to fulfill their basic needs and pursue social, economic, and personal fulfillment and success. It's a working definition, and is open to change and interpretation, but I had to start somewhere. So what does this mean for buildings? Well, it means that architects have the opportunity to foster social justice with every building they design, through location, transportation access, public spaces, materials, indoor amenities, and construction labor practices. As I researched this article, I began to see that social justice and environmental performance often go hand in hand. Putting an office building in the middle of nowhere means that everyone has to commute to it, raising their carbon footprint.
The living space in this new home built by Global Green in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans is elevated four feet (1.2 m) to keep it above expected flood level. Numerous other "passive survivability" features are included.
A lot of people have been working for a long time to try to head off global warming — and some progress is being made. Buildings are becoming more energy-efficient, fuel economy standards for vehicles are finally rising again, and use of renewable energy is burgeoning. We need to continue these efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon dioxide, but the reality is that it's too little, too late to prevent climate change. Even if the CO2 spigot were turned off tomorrow, the earth would still see significant warming and the other predicted impacts of climate change: more intense storms, flooding, drought, wildfire, and power interruptions.

McKinsey Report: Energy Efficiency is a Big Deal

Posted July 29, 2009 2:14 PM by Allyson Wendt
Related Categories: The Industry
The U.S. Green Building Council just sent out information from a report written by McKinsey and Company about energy efficiency and its role in U.S. mitigation of climate change. Here's what they found:
  • Energy-efficiency of buildings (along with other non-transportation efforts) could reduce U.S. energy consumption by 23% by 2020.
  • Such efforts would save $1.2 trillion and reduce emissions by 1.1 gigatons annually.
  • Getting to this point would require an annual investment of $50 billion for ten years.
In other words, the report puts numbers on what many of us knew intuitively: buildings are a really big piece of the climate puzzle. The report (in PDF download) is available here.

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