|Before you decide to hop onto the green building bandwagon, look towards the final destination. Sustainable, integrated, whole-building design is where to head.|
|It's Not About Being Green|
|By George S. Borkovich|
Lately it seems everyone is trying to hitch a ride on the green building bandwagon. From design firms jockeying for green certification, to contractors incorporating new green building procedures, to owners wanting their facilities to meet new green standards, to manufacturers having their products specified as green. And while it is certainly important for the construction industry to embrace such environmental practices, being green should not be the only concern. There are shades of green that are acceptable, that get firms moving in the right direction, and can position them not only to be cognizant of the latest green building guidelines, but more importantly to view construction in a holistic manner --- a sustainable, integrated design context that includes life safety, comfort, fire protection, security, aesthetics, cost, build-ability, acoustics as well as energy use, conservation and resource efficiency.
Leading the way is the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC), whose Whole-Building Design Guide (WBDG) incorporates all these important construction criteria, providing the facilty owner with a higher-performance building and a project site that is more environmentally responsive. According to Executive Director Helen English, "The building and its community, site and orientation must be interdependent. The resulting buildings will be more efficient, cost-effective, comfortable and healthy." The format and structure of the WBDG is a first step in creating a knowledge-based criteria technology that underscores these issues and helps to direct the users to available industry resources. Its website is chock-full of sustainable design information, products and services and project management systems.
Mirroring this philosophy, a new industry event was inaugurated in 2005. Over 2000 design and construction industry professionals converged in Orlando to attend Ecobuild America. Sponsored by SBIC, the meeting is notable for the breadth of support it received, with nearly 100 professional associations and industry publications playing a participating role. The make-up of the convention included up-to-date project solutions on an array of subjects covering sustainability, energy-efficiency, green products and services, solar, options for livable communities, water conservation, information technology, environmental planning and a particular emphasis on infrastructure and sustainable growth. Unlike other industry gatherings where the majority of attendees are primarily architects, Ecobuild America attracted the entire project team, with scores of engineers, land planners, developers, contractors, specifiers, homebuilders and facility owners in attendance.
Particularly interesting, at this event and the subsequent Ecobuild Federal held as December, less than 10% of the registrants were members of the U.S. Green Building Council, suggesting that the industry as a whole is just awakening to the need to develop their position on sustainability, and might be looking to alternative resources that do not endorse a proprietary green rating system. Attendees were afforded an objective look at the benefits and features of each of these programs, and when their use makes sense.
The next installment of this conference will be Ecobuild Federal, slated for December 5-7, 2006 at the Washington DC Convention Center and held in cooperation with SBIC and The Green Building Initiative. The gathering will also play host to the following related, co-located meetings:
Sustainable Buildings Industry Council's 2006 Awards Program, Annual Meeting, and Forum - (all focusing on Health and Productivity in Sustainable Buildings)
Green Globes Training Workshops for Commercial Building - sponsored by the Green Building Initiative
The National Institute of Building Science's FEDcon 2006 - exploring the market outlook for federal design and construction programs across applicable agencies
AUGI CAD Camp - Washington, DC - sponsored by Autodesk User Group International
Strategies for Developing & Marketing Your Products and Services Internationally-sponsored by The United States of America Department of Commerce
The current number of design and construction professionals involved in sustainability at this point is still relatively small. As an industry, we have a very long way to go to expose professionals to this important subject matter, but we are making steady progress. But before you decide to hop onto the green building bandwagon, look towards the final destination. Sustainable, integrated, whole-building design is where to head.
About the Author: George Borkovich, an architect by training, is a Principal of RCG Productions, LLC, an event management firm specializing in meetings for design and construction professionals. RCG produces the Ecobuild America and Federal conferences and exhibitions.
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