Monday, March 17, 2008

On the Road: Gulf Coast Green

There are many great green building conferences out there but I want to call out one that I will make a point to attend this year: Gulf Coast Green (April 3-6, Houston). First of all, I love that this is a regional approach with targeted strategies for a specific climate. We don't all live on the same latitude and we aren't all dealing with the same challenges. One size does not fit all.

I used to live in Houston and I can tell you - there are real challenges for green building when you're cooling year-round and natural venitlation is never an option for commercial office buildings due to mold and other moisture issues. While many so-called green buildings occur in a vacuum without ever addressing site issues holistically, stormwater management is key in the Gulf Coast region. And despite an abundance of precipitation during hurricane season, recent challenges in Atlanta prove that water conservation is still also high on the list of priorities.

The reasons I will attend this conference? First of all, I am looking forward to keynotes Jared Diamond, Ken Yeang and Ira Magaziner. The rest of the line-up is stellar too.

In my past experience (2006) the speakers were all first-rate and I learned a lot for my money - unlike GreenBuild 2007, which was oversold and overpriced considering I wasn't able to attend any of my first-pick sessions.

Second of all, they walk the talk. The consumer expo is the first ever in the U.S. to require only green certified products (certified by 3rd parties such as Green guard, Green Seal, Energy Star etc. and services (e.g. minimum no. of LEED-APs for design service firms). Visit the “Green Guidelines” page for more information.
And exhibitors are not allowed to give out throw-aways. Offers such as rebates are encouraged, but no goody bags, not notepads, pens, pencils, no junk. All of the food is organic and lcoal wherever possible, all conference waste will be recycled, offsets are being purchased for 100% of the conference, banners are printed on organic cotton, etc.

And finally, if the 2006 conference is any predictor, my fellow attendees will be a great mix of sustainably focused professionals from development, design, construction, public sector, and a broad spectrum of clients. I expect once again to find the level of dialogue with my colleagues is as useful and enlightening as the conference itself.

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