Building Green Chicago Conference & Expo Highlights

Building on the popularity of its previous seminars, Index Publishing, in cooperation with USGBC Chicago, presented the Building Green Chicago Conference and Expo. The half-day event was a balance of showroom floor exhibiting the latest sustainable building products and educational seminars by top city officials and local leaders in the sustainability movement.

The trade show floor featured over thirty manufacturers of various products, including wind turbines, renewable countertops and bamboo alternatives for slow growth wood, among others. Sustainable service companies were also present, offering alternatives for recycling, waste diversion, software and more. There was also a strong presence by unions and advocacy groups who hoped to inform the visitors on how to green various trades, whether it be insulation, roofing, electrical or structural.

Also unique to the trade show floor were two private demonstrations. Bob McGuckin of Local 17 Heat and Frost Insulators discussed the merits of mechanical insulation and presented appraisal software to streamline the process. Chicagoland Roofing Council representatives Bill McHugh, Jim Petry and Gary Menzel discussed the green options for a structure’s roof, including solar, reflective coatings and vegetation.

The first seminar discussed the City of Chicago’s 2020 Climate Action Plan. Joyce Coffee, Director of Project Development, Policy and Research for the city’s Department of Environment presented efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions citywide, as well as strategies for more efficient water and land use. Joining Coffee was Gail Borthwick, Senior Architect with Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architects. She presented the “decarbonization” plan that AS + GG developed for the city. The areas of focus in this plan included infrastructure, existing buildings, transit, waste and water.

As has frequently been the case in the past, the most anticipated panel discussion concerned finding financing for sustainable projects. Filling out the roundtable were Michael Cornicelli, Executive Vice President of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago, Kim Du’Prey of the Illinois Finance Authority, Holland & Knight’s Senior Council in the Chicago Office, Jonathan Furr and Lloyd Davidson, Vice President and General Manager of Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. While the federal stimulus package was discussed, most talk concerned the need to green existing buildings, as financing for new construction has all but dried up in the weak economy.

With all the focus on photovoltaics, vegetated roofs and other green options for building tops, many forget one of the easiest and cheapest options. Mitigating the urban heat island effect–the localized rise in temperature that occurs in densly populated areas—is easily accomplished by painting or installing reflective surfaces on a roof. This also reduces solar gain in the summer, reducing air conditioning usage. Discussing this were Bill McHugh of the Chicagoland Roofing Council, Jim Petry, Vice President and Co-Owner of Combined Roofing Services, Gary Menzel of Roofer’s Union Local 11 and Bradley Roback who works for the Sustainable Development Division, an initiative of the Chicago Department of Zoning and Planning.

Finally, another hot topic was green jobs and projects. Dr. Victoria Cooper, the Director of the Environmental Technology Program at Wright College discussed the continuing education, training and other programs her institute offers to help Chicago’s workforce better prepare for the green economy. Joining her was the Delta Institute’s Kindy Kruller, an Associate and co-founder of the steering committee for the Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative.

The Building Green Chicago Conference and Expo presented a unique opportunity to network and business develop with like-minded real estate and development professionals, educate oneself at the series of roundtables and discover new and innovative products and services to aid in greening the Chicago area in the hope that, together, we can move from a discussion of green building to building green.

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