Now in its 11th year, Greenbuild opened with a bang. The opening plenary presented top-tier speakers that energized the crowd – starting with San Francisco mayor Edwin M. Lee, who walked to the microphone to the Korean pop hit “Gangnam Style.” Rick Fedrizzi, the president of the U.S. Green Building Council, offered a rousing comparison of the green building movement to the civil and human rights movements that have been fought by women, workers, African Americans and gays, saying that they all have one thing in common: “They were right,” he said. “We are right.” Affirming the success of the USGBC, Google just announced a $3-million grant to the organization to further the development of the building materials industry and “accelerate the creation of healthier indoor environments.”
In fact, Fedrizzi’s comments reflect the show’s over-arching sentiment: that green building is about the people, not just the interior, the building or the city. Twitter founder Biz Stone talked about the importance of listening to people, in order to bring the green movement forward, adding that any change must also start with a focus on basic human rights around the world. “People don’t care about sustainability when they’re starving to death,” he said. And Majora Carter, who pioneered the idea of greening the ghetto, emphasized that “the quest for equality always leads to greater prosperity.”
Later in the day, Candy Chang, best described as a hybrid of architect, artist and urban designer, illustrated how starting small can lead to big things. In her “I Wish This Was” project in New Orleans, she created vinyl stickers (a play on “My Name Is…”) that she dropped off at various local businesses and in front of vacant buildings. People could fill them in and affix them to abandoned buildings and underused city elements. This exercise in energizing the community led to the online Neighborland initiative, where people all over the world can connect with others in their neighbourhoods, and with each other, to dialogue about what they desire for their communities. At the show, she also installed her “Before I Die” chalkboard, which show-goers filled in less than a day with their hopes and aspirations.
Even on the show floor, companies were zoning in on what their green initiatives mean to people on an individual basis. Tracy Backus, Teknion’s director of sustainable programs, was on-hand discussing the company’s new commitments to healthy finishes and materials. She also highlighted the Logiq energy management system, which gives office workers access to real-time data, so that they can control energy usage right down to the power consumed at their individual desks – by computers, lighting and other plugged-in accessories – from a home computer or iPhone. “You make the choice yourself,” says Backus.
Greenbuild continues at the Moscone Convention Centre in San Francisco until November 16. Stay tuned for more on-the-floor coverage, as well as a round up of the best products from the expo floor.