Back in September, I was one of the fortunate group of people to be selected for the Greenbuild 2013 Scholarship, granted by the USGBC. This scholarship allowed for winners to travel and attend the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, held in Philadelphia, PA last week, nearly $3000 worth of expenses. For a variety of reasons, it was truly an amazing and inspirational experience.
The other scholarship winners were an extraordinary group of people, diverse in every possible way except for their shared ambition of positively impacting the world. They came from all over the world to learn and to build relationships that will become catalysts for the change they want to see in the world around them. They work in non-profits, higher education, faith-based organizations, and represent disciplines like architecture and construction management to name a few. Certainly one of the highlights of my Greenbuild experience was interacting with them.
Top-notch networking was another remarkable aspect of Greenbuild. Attendees had the opportunity to mingle with the individuals behind USGBC and LEED at the national and international level. One of my involvements in Columbus is the USGBC Emerging Professionals committee, where we work to bridge the gap between college and professional life for those interested in sustainable design and construction. At Greenbuild I was able to make connections that will strengthen the ties between regional and national levels. These ties will help our ongoing collective efforts to establish a USGBC student chapter at Ohio State. Another networking opportunity I had that was very successful was meeting the LEED reviewers. USGBC made a point of providing insight into how the LEED review process works, their internal goals and challenges, and how they are continuously working to improve the process. LEED project team members were even able to schedule an appointment to meet with reviewers face-to-face and discuss issues or answer questions relating to the documentation of credit compliance. I only wish I had known that ahead of time!
Many of us working with the Green Schools Compendium and other related green schools research had the chance to share and discuss results with interested parties and make connections to further project goals. The latest round of the Green Schools Compendium sought to explore how LEED might be affecting educational outcomes in Ohio schools. The Greenbuild Community Lounge provided space for the researchers to set up an infographic displaying the outcomes of their statistical analysis. Where my research project was concerned, I was able to reach out to several individuals to peer review my findings and even more who couldn’t wait to read them. These research projects have been a passion project for many of us within the Central Ohio chapter and I have no doubt Greenbuild 2013 will elevate our collective efforts to the next level.
Learning about LEED v4 was a goal I placed special emphasis on when choosing which educational sessions to attend. The newest version of LEED represents a substantial “raising of the bar” over the last two versions and will have a substantial impact on the market. What I sought to learn about the newest iteration of LEED was the “how” and “why” and what it would mean to me as a LEED Project Administrator. The Greenbuild sessions did not disappoint. One session in particular was especially eye opening. It was called “Code Dread: Keeping up with ASHRAE and LEED” and was led by Scott Bowman and his team from KJWW, an international MEP engineering firm based in the Midwest. They conducted an experiment to explore how different versions of LEED intersect with the project scope and how the final certification is impacted. The project was a renovation of one of KJWW’s own offices, originally certified Silver in LEED v2.2. I don’t want to give the details away, but the results were eye opening. Implementing LEED v4 is going to be more challenging. Clients who have been through the LEED process before or have preconceived notions about the relative ease of earning LEED Gold or Silver will need to have their expectations managed. Project teams who routinely earn LEED Gold or Silver are going to have to dig deeper and get more creative to design projects to earn the same level of LEED certification. While at first many professionals may be leery of increased performance thresholds, as an industry we should embrace it. These projects will be part of the solution for many human issues, even more than their predecessors.
Raising the bar is not an arbitrary change, it’s an integral one. LEED v4 projects will be among the best performing in the world, and I relish the opportunity to work on some of the best projects our built environment has to offer.