Our American green columnist Jerry Yudelson reports from his month's Greenbuild event, which had everything from Bill Clinton, proof that sustainable buildings work and a truly international flavour

Chicago hosted the sixth annual conference and trade show of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). More than 22,000 people crossed the threshold into the new world of green building, American-style.

Jerry Yudelson
Jerry Yudelson, Yudelson Associates

More than 850 exhibit booths showcased the latest in green building technology, systems and products. USGBC’s CEO Rick Fedrizzi delivered the opening address and provided some astounding numbers: more than 1,100 LEED-certified projects, with more than 7,000 LEED-registered projects underway.

More than 40,000 LEED accredited professionals and more than 80,000 people attending USGBC education events in the past year; more than 12,000 USGBC member companies, agencies and nonprofits, up more than 60% in the past year.

Best of all, there is now documentation from more than 120 projects that LEED-certified new buildings are averaging more than 30% energy savings against their benchmarks, based on actual measured energy use. For a copy of the research presentation, go to The Energy Performance of Green Buildings

Political pundit

Former President Bill Clinton delivered the keynote and (to his surprise, he said) received a freshly-minted new plaque for the LEED for Existing Buildings Platinum certification of his Presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas. Clinton’s message was blunt: we know what to do to cut global warming and now we need to move to the implementation stage, with respect to new green buildings and retrofits of existing buildings. He said, “We have to keep score and we have to be honest about our progress.”

Paul Hawken’s plenary address from his new book, Blessed Unrest, distributed free to all conference attendees, focused on the “quiet revolution” fomented by socially active, environmentally aware nonprofits making headway on large-scale issues around the globe.

On the third day, a panel of U.S. mayors from Chicago, Austin (Texas), Albuquerque (New Mexico) and Grand Rapids (Michigan) discussed what their cities are doing to promote green buildings, sustainability and a low-carbon future. One of the beauties of change in the U.S. is that so much of it stems from local actions by elected leaders, no matter the stasis in the nation’s capital.

Gathering momentum

These mayors are committed, effective and articulate advocates for a green building future for their cities, and they are taking action today. Chicago, for example, offers building permit processing in 15 working days for developers and building owners committing to the LEED Silver (or better) level of achievement.

All of the plenary talks, the mayors’ panel and two master speaker talks by Maria Atkinson, global head of sustainability for Lend Lease Corporation and Prem Jain, Chairman of the India Green Building Council are viewable at a new website, Greenbuild 365. There is also a new web site devoted to green schools, Build Green Schools, that will become the focus for the USGBC’s effort to have nothing but 100% green schools within a generation.

To promote the rapid development of certified green homes, USGBC launched a consumer web site,The Green Home Guide, with all kinds of good information on greening the residential sector. Look for green homes to be the major green growth market in the US over the next three years.

One of the highlights of the show for me was the emerging presence of large European manufacturers, bringing new ideas and new products from the Old World to the New. This year, we could see façade maker Schuco from Germany, dynamic façade maker Somfy from France and of course Siemens, long established in the US.

Mass appeal

Highlights included the presence of more than 1,200 international visitors from more than 60 countries, including substantial delegations from Canada and Mexico, the UK and Spain, China and Australia. An “international day” conference drew more than 200 people and including presentations masterfully orchestrated by Professor Ray Cole of the University of British Columbia.

In 2008, the Greenbuild show moves to Boston, where one can expect upwards of 25,000 people and more than 1,200 exhibit booths. Although the date is late (November 19-21) and the weather likely to be a bit brisk, the hospitality will be warm. Two heads-up: The call for papers will be issued soon and will close in early January.

Papers on completed projects, new technologies and building evaluations from the UK and other parts of the world will be welcome. Check the USGBC and Greenbuild web sites for further information, US Green Building Council and Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. The second is this: If you’re planning to attend, register early and get your hotel accommodations set early. There are financial benefits for early registrations, but more importantly you’ll be housed within walking distance of the convention venue. As we like to say, “If you snooze, you lose!”