Greenbuild 2010: Bringing Green Back to Chicago

By Dieterich Herndobler

The annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, hosted by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), is visiting Chicago for the second time since its beginning in 2002. The expo will be at McCormick Place West from November 17th through the 19th and will use twice the space it did in 2007.

Greenbuild is the world’s largest conference and expo for green building. Bringing three days of top-notch educational sessions, key speakers, tours of green buildings, seminars and networking events. Chicago is a great location because it was one of the first cities to adopt LEED for public buildings and is home to the largest number of LEED-certified buildings anywhere.

Every aspect of the expo is designed to be green from the lodging down to the menus and tablecloths. Beginning with the registration process and pre-conference mailer, Greenbuild has been dedicated to reducing the use of paper products to those that are reusable or 100% recyclable. Exhibitors are given awards for going above and beyond the minimum mandatory exhibition green guidelines. All hotels participating must sign a contract that confirms their intent to be green, including turning off lights in unused rooms, recycling programs and using environmentally friendly cleaners.

In 2007, only around one pound of waste per person went to a landfill. The USGBC is looking to improve on that number for this year. The expo is looking to have 25% of the food come from local and organic menu items. Additionally, china and linen will be used when possible, and any disposable serving items will be 100% compostable.

There are a wide variety of speakers that will be present teaching the various education sessions and workshops, as well as several key speakers. The strong set of master series speakers begins with Martha N. Johnson, Administrator of the United States General Services Administration. Johnson oversees the government purchasing of the goods, services and real property that the federal government needs to operate in the most cost-effective, transparent, and sustainable way possible.

Arlene Blum, the founder and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute (GSP), will be speaking Thursday morning. The mission of the GSP is to work with government, industry, scientists and citizen’s groups to reduce the use of toxic chemicals. Blum’s research has lead to the removal of the carcinogenic flame-retardants from children’s pajamas and buildings. Blum was selected as part of the “Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet” by the National Women’s History Project.

Also speaking on Thursday morning is Geoffrey Canada, the current president and chief executive officer of Harlem Children’s Zone. Canada is nationally recognized for his pioneering work in helping families and children in Harlem, and his passion for education reform. The Harlem Children’s Zone started the Zone Project in 1997, providing educational, social and medical services to children and young adults in central Harlem. Canada has also written several books detailing the troubles of urban youth.

Thursday afternoon brings Dr. Mitchell Joachim to the podium. He is known as a leader in ecological design and urbanism. Dr. Joachim is best known for his living tree house project, Fab Tree Hab. His company, Terreform ONE, is a non-profit design group that promotes green design in cities, acting as a laboratory for local sustainability in energy, transportation, infrastructure, buildings, waste treatment, food, water and media spaces. He was named an environmental visionary by Popular Science.

The father-daughter tandem of Kevin and Hannah Salwen, who co-authored The Power of Half, are scheduled to speak on Friday. A story of the “eureka moment” for Hannah that prompted the family to cut their consumption in half, starting with selling their home for one that is half its size. Kevin currently serves on the board for the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity. Hannah, now a junior in high school, has volunteered at a local kitchen serving the homeless since fifth grade.

In addition to the speakers, the expo also offers a wide variety of LEED workshops, education sessions, courses, tours and special events throughout the three days. All the LEED workshops qualify for continuing education credits for the LEED Green Associate and all LEED AP credentials. Some notable workshops are “When Green Building is Code,” discussing the future of building codes requiring green elements for all new construction, using CALGreen as an example; “A Forest Runs Through It: Benefits of Urban Trees,” a discussion on how to enable trees in an urban environment to thrive and their ecological, social and economic benefits; and “LEED 101: Green Building Basics and LEED,” an overview of LEED and green building for those new to the field. There are also several tours to green areas or buildings in the region, such as a luncheon at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

The Expo is also offering several summits focusing on various green related topics. One of them is the Residential Summit, which will bring together leaders in the residential construction industry for a full day of networking, innovative education and change, featuring Henry Cisneros, former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary. There is also an Affordable Housing Summit that will focus on innovative policy efforts as well as proven design and construction techniques for ensuring long-term affordability and improving low-income families’ living conditions across America. Greenbuild is also offering a Green Jobs Summit that will bring together industry stakeholders on Tuesday. This Summit will also feature a Green Job Fair that is free and open to the public.

The closing plenary has two well known leaders to speak: United States HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, as well as author, entrepreneur and environmentalist Paul Hawken. Secretary Donovan was the former head of New York City’s Department of Housing Prevention and Development, and served under former President Bill Clinton as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multi-Family Housing.

At age 20, Paul Hawken dedicated his life to sustainability and changing the way businesses interact with the environment. He founded Erewhon Trading Company, America’s first natural foods company. He has also been a keynote speaker at several other green or environmental seminars, including Greenlink 2010 in Vancouver, BC in October.

The Greenbuild Conference and Expo offers a little something for everyone, whether you are a professional in the industry or just someone interested in preserving and protecting the natural environment. Be sure to check out McCormick Place November 15th through the 20th.

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