A Watershed Moment for Greenbuild?
Over 35,000 people have converged on San Francisco to take part in the green building industry’s biggest annual trade show, with over 1,000 vendors exhibiting in all three halls of the Moscone Center. LEED, and USGBC, the organizer of the conference, have certainly come a long way since the first Greenbuild in 2002. The Conference is now ten times the size and has gained significant support in the industry, particularly among large corporations.
Greenbuild 2012 comes at a time of uncertainty for the green building industry. There have been many notable successes. Green buildings now account for one third of all design and construction jobs in the United States. California is launching the nation’s first statewide mandatory cap-and-trade programme today. A new poll of Pacific Coast voters on clean energy and infrastructure shows that a clear majority support taxing pollution and using the revenues to support clean energy. Google announced a grant of $3 million to USGBC to help research more sustainable building materials. Architects and urban planners in the United States and across the world increasingly see green construction not as a luxury but as a necessity.
However, as Opening Plenary host Joe Scarborough pointed out, the green building movement still overwhelmingly looks like the attendees of the Republican National Convention – read: overwhelmingly white. Federal and state support incentivizing green construction is still paltry, even as more and more consumers demand it. A divided Congress with much bigger problems is unlikely to make sustainable construction a big priority, unless the industry gets together and pushes for comprehensive policy reform. The USGBC and it’s now over fifty sister organizations in other countries need to do a better job of encouraging minority and low-income people to join the cause.
As climate change accelerates, the importance of building and city resiliency increases at the same rate. Too few of our policy leaders are engaging in the kind of productive conversation that vendors & businesses are having at Greenbuild. Yet in many ways, this feels like a watershed year for the Event: More attendees, vendors, sponsors and education progammes, than ever. Major news outlets are covering it not just as a niche event but as an important indicator to where one of the fastest growing industries in the US is going. The mood here is jubilant and optimistic. But for how long?
Sustainable Cities Collective