Taxonomy Term en 11754 BuildingEnergy's LEED 'Debate': "Least informative forum yet" I wasn't able to attend last week's BuildingEnergy conference, sadly. Most particularly, I wasn't able to get to Tuesday night's public forum, "What's Right and What's Wrong With LEED," featuring panelists Henry Gifford, USGBC's LEED Technical VP Brendan Owens, Steven Winter Associates' Maureen Mahle, IBACOS' Duncan Prahl, and energy modeler Maria Karpman of Karpman Consulting. It was moderated by Nadav Malin. (Why was I so hot for that presentation? For a refresher, see Lies, Damn Lies, and... Another Look at LEED Energy Efficiency, and the terrific comments that follow it.) At least we can all hear about the forum second-hand. The Boston Globe's green blog — which they call "The Green Blog" — posted How best to determine a green building? with the opening line, "A rant or a mugging?" (That piece is an edited version of the one on Michael Prager's blog.) Read either or both of those to get to the "Least informative forum yet" reference. More goodies: Fred Unger's thoughts at NESEA's blog, and Sitephocus weighs in on the controversy. There's another blow-by-blow at Green Real Estate Law Journal, but the reporting is based on Michael Prager's piece; however, the final three paragraphs pull some threads together in a way that's well worth a look. 2009-03-16 n/a 11519 Cataclysmic opportunity, or just cataclysm? Martin Luther King, Jr. said "I have a dream," not "I have a nightmare." Tell me why my life is going to be better in a world where we are dealing with climate change.

Solitaire Townsend offered that thought as one of four people presenting at the opening public forum for the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association BuildingEnergy08 conference last night. Solitaire is an "environmental evangelist" who provides advice to companies and others who are communicating about sustainability. She gave some advice on communicating environmental messages to different types of people – the Heathers, Marthas, and Joyces of the world. Don't bother talking to Martha about recycling, she says. Talk to people she respects, like her minister, PTA head, or the Queen. Solitaire recommends getting the Heathers, her term for conspicuous consumers, on board by giving them a sticker to put in the window of their energy-efficient home, and their favorite celebrities' homes.

I first met Chris Martenson, an economic analyst from Massachusetts and another speaker last night, a few years ago at our local natural-building group in Brattleboro, where he shared his predictions of economic doom/prosperity (depending on how you look at it) in a series of living-room chats. Last night Chris, who has downscaled his family's consumption significantly, presented three core beliefs:

  • Massive change in our energy, environment and economy is upon us. These have a common cause. (Chris presents these changes as exponential functions, putting us on the vertical portion of the classic "hockey stick" graph.) Says Chris, "The money supply is designed to expand exponentially, yet we live on a spherical planet."
  • The pace of change could overwhelm the ability of our social and political institutions to adapt and respond.
  • We have the power to make changes now to adapt to the future.
James Howard Kunstler shines as an ill-tempered critic who doesn't mess around appealing to the Marthas and Heathers – he seemed to say on the panel last night that a major environmental and economic convulsion is coming our way, and that we can either choose to embrace it, or we can be convulsed by it.

In his remarks Jim gave little doubt about which thinks it will be: "We're living in the land of make-believe," he says. Jim doesn't mince words when it comes to self-satisfied Prius drivers: "The only thing we're discussing is how are we going to run the cars by other means," he says about the current state of environmental discourse. (For more on smug emissions, South Park is second to none.)

I first heard Jim's message in March 1990, when he wrote, as the cover story for the New York Times Magazine, an obituary for the small town in upstate New York in which I grew up and was at the time a teenager. Jim also lived in Schuylerville at the time and in his article "Schuylerville Stands Still," he wrote this:

"When the mills shut down it was almost like doomsday around here," Tom Wood [the town historian] said. "Then the oil crunch hit at the same time. Gas prices went way up. People couldn't commute further to work. They had to get help from Social Services. Maybe that was the beginning of some of our problems."

For all practical purposes Schuylerville, and towns like it, have become colonial outposts of another America. The idea of the self-sustaining small-town economy, still so potent in our national mythology, is grimly contradicted by the vacant shopfronts and decomposing facades along Broadway, as the main street is called.
Since then I have seen Jim talk about how small towns like Schuylerville and larger depressed cities like Schenectady, New York, are poised for a post-suburban sustainability boom, in the world that he and Chris both foresee. How will that happen? Jim made this prognostication last night:

It's about what circumstances will require you to do. There are people who think we are going to technologize our way out of these problems, and there are people who think that we are going to organize our way out of these problems. Both of those are a form of hubris. We're going to have to self-organize. You're going to see emerging behavior. We're such control freaks, and a lot of this is not something we're going to control.
What does he mean? You tell me.

The fourth speaker last night was Linda Gunter, from Beyond Nuclear in Maryland. Linda spoke against nuclear power, linking it to nuclear weapons and many other issues. Time requires me to leave it at that and ask you to visit her website.
2008-03-12 n/a 11502 BuildingEnergy08 Always a big supporter of the BuildingEnergy conference, BuildingGreen will have an even bigger presence than usual this year — in addition to our booth on the trade show floor, we have people chairing sessions, leading a full-day building science workshop, and even giving the opening plenary. The BuildingEnergy conference and trade show for renewable energy and green building professionals, presented by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, runs from March 11 - 13 in Boston. Our own Alex Wilson will give the opening plenary:
"Alex Wilson will review some of the tremendous challenges facing our environment and our way of life, including climate change, water shortages, and the end of cheap oil, then focus on integrated solutions to these problems. The answers certainly won't be easy, but they are waiting for us, should society choose to act."
He will also chair a session called "Passive Survivability: The Other Reason to Go Green," on Thursday morning (8:30 - 10:00). Christopher R. Schaffner will be speaking in this session.
"The concept of 'passive survivability' is relatively new to the building community, but had its debut in Environmental Building News two years ago. It involves the next generation of green buildings. They are distinguished from other green buildings in that they are not only environmentally excellent, but also more secure structures able to keep their occupants safe and reasonably comfortable under all conditions."
Alex has written about energy-efficient and environmentally responsible design and construction for more than 25 years. Prior to starting BuildingGreen, he was executive director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association for five years; before that he taught workshops on the construction of solar greenhouses in New Mexico in the late '70s. Alex is author of Your Green Home, and coauthor of the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings and the Rocky Mountain Institute's comprehensive textbook Green Development: Integrating Ecology and Real Estate. He has also written hundreds of articles for other publications, including Fine Homebuilding, Architectural Record, Landscape Architecture, the Journal of Light Construction, and Popular Science. Along with writing about design and construction, Alex has written four guidebooks on quiet-water paddling published by the Appalachian Mountain Club — covering all of New England and New York State. Alex served on the board of directors of the U.S. Green Building Council for five years, and he is currently a trustee of The Nature Conservancy - Vermont Chapter. Nadav Malin, vice-president of BuildingGreen, will chair a session on Thursday morning (10:30 - noon) called "Debate in the Green Communities: LEED® or Follow?" Session speakers include Chris Benedict, Bruce Coldham, and Scot Horst.
"Considered by many to be the premier sustainability guideline, the US Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standard has been adopted by many as the standard across the country. Critics claim that the system favors 'point grabbing' over good building science, while supporters say it has become a tool of market transformation for the green community. Sit in on the discussion."
Nadav serves as editor of Environmental Building News, and coeditor of the GreenSpec product directory. He is chair of the Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group for the LEED® Rating System of the U.S. Green Building Council' (USGBC), a LEED Faculty Member, and a LEED Accredited Professional. He was a principal author of the Applications Reports for the Environmental Resource Guide that compares the environmental value of different building materials in various applications, and he coauthored the chapter on building materials for Time Saver Standards. He has written numerous articles for publications including Architectural Record and The Construction Specifier. Nadav consults and lectures widely on sustainable design, with a particular focus on green materials. In addition to running LEED training workshops, he has taught seminars for various USGBC chapters, CSI chapters, state AIA chapters, and private architecture firms. He also served on the U.S. team for Green Building Challenge, manages the U.S. Department of Energy's High Performance Buildings Database project, and leads the content development team for Web and software resources at Peter Yost, BuildingGreen's awesomely knowledgeable Residential Program Manager, will be presenting a full-day pre-conference workshop on Tuesday (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM), called "Building Science Fundamentals." This one's going to be hot.
"Building science fundamentals form the foundation needed to drive and market your green building business. Learn how building science, quality and durability can work together for true high performance green building. The one-day seminar will cover how to solve problems in existing buildings, and how to avoid making these mistakes in new construction."
Peter Yost is the Residential Program Manager for BuildingGreen. He has been building, researching, teaching, writing, and consulting on high performance homes for more than twenty years. His expertise stretches from construction waste management and advanced framing to energy efficiency and building durability. Peter has made significant contributions to the work of many leading homebuilding organizations and initiatives — NAHB Research Center, Building Science Corporation, 3-D Building Solutions, EEBA, Masco's Environments for Living® program, USGBC's LEED for Homes program, and the US Department of Energy's Building America program. Peter is currently an instructor for the Boston Architectural College's Sustainable Design Certificate program and for the University of Massachusetts Department of Building Materials and Wood Technology program in Amherst. He is a past co-chair and current Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Steering Committee member of the USGBC's LEED for Homes program. BuildingGreen, in addition to being a Track Sponsor (the "Collaboration in Action" series), will be at Booth 654 on the trade show floor — come see us!
2008-02-11 n/a