Lessons Learned From My First Greenbuild

  • Oct 28, 2016

By Marianna Verlage, Sustainability Manager

When I first learned about the Greenbuild Conference, it was described to me as “Disney World for people in our industry.” It most definitely did not disappoint.

My Greenbuild days at this year’s conference in Los Angeles looked like this: I reached my daily 10,000 steps goal by lunchtime, jumped from one interesting education session to another learning about new projects and technologies that are changing our industry, and was exposed to the most innovative green products on the market. However, as amazing as all that was, what really made it “Disney World” for me was being surrounded by thousands of people who genuinely cared about the environment, interacting with leaders who are paving the way so we can all make a difference, and having the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas across all areas of sustainable design.

Below are just a few key takeaways from my trip:

Project owners are already asking designers to design with future climates in mind. A new innovative and energy efficient building being designed for Georgia Tech is a great example. Atlanta’s climate is projected to get significantly warmer in the coming years, and the architects are taking that into account in their design.

Awareness of the importance of personal comfort inside our buildings is growing. There are several new technologies and apps that are being developed to optimize building occupant comfort. Some interesting examples include:

  • Wristify a product developed by MIT that is worn around your wrist like a watch and helps regulate your personal temperature.
  • Comfy – a crowd sourcing app that surveys occupant comfort in real time.

Humans crave dynamic environments and a connection with nature – biophilic design incorporates those elements into buildings. Studies have shown that our brains respond positively to non-uniformity of light, sounds, and smells of nature, vegetated areas, etc. The Center for Sustainable Leaders recognized the importance of these natural environments, so they hired a sound artist to create a year-long composition of local, outdoor background noises. This device is controlled by the BAS and works in sync with the weather, time of day, and season to create appropriate background noises. The sound devices were mounted onto the windows, so in reality the building itself is creating the noises that connect its inhabitants to nature.

Can we reimagine our streets as parks? Urban green spaces are vital public assets that serve many functions and create safe, social, productive, and happy environments, all of which comes from the value that nature adds to the urban environment. There is also value in ambiguity when creating a shared space. If we mix pedestrians, bikers, buses and cars all in the same area, people expect uncertainty given the shared modes of transportation and are inherently safer in the way they interact with others.

Our Sustainability team here at Beck is still discussing some of the interesting takeaways from Greenbuild and we will soon be sharing how we can integrate them into our Sustainability Services.