GreenBuild What began as a convention for a few thousand enthusiastic “green builders” in 2002, this year brought together 30,000 sustainability stakeholders in disciplines ranging from construction, architecture and design, to chemistry, biology and agriculture. The convergence of multiple sectors marks a shift toward systems-based thinking about the built environment, and this enables a more holistic approach to how we design, build and operate the buildings, offices and houses that tie up such a large portion of the earth’s resources.

Our built environment is about more than just structural artifacts and infrastructure. We are focusing on the value these structures provide to their occupants, to society and to ecological systems, and the value they provide relative to the resources they tie up in the process.  

New economic and environmental realities require us to dramatically reduce the total amount of resources for buildings while actually improving their performance.  This was the topic of the presentation Mark Loeffler and I made at GreenBuild 2013—“Dematerializing the Build Environment ".

LEED

LEED has played a central role in accelerating the pace at which higher performing, more environmentally sustainable technologies, innovations and designs are shaping the built environment. At the same time that the standards and certification system offer guidance for practitioners in the built environment

and provide an incentive for investments in green technologies, there is a need to encourage innovation and forward thinking outside of this prescriptive points system. Innovations in science, technology, design and business are rapidly creating opportunities that can push well beyond LEED point requirements and the tried-and-true — and realize unprecedented resource and cost savings, as well as benefits for building occupants and society as a whole.  I am convinced that the most common characteristic of these innovations is the potential to improve resource performance.

For example, new adaptive materials are enabling buildings to respond autonomously to environmental conditions; living systems are being harnessed to provide illumination, thermal control, aesthetic appeal, and health benefits to occupants; and multi-functional materials are making it possible to do much more with much less.

homeostatic-facade
homeostatic-facade
algae
algae
home_grass
home_grass

Living Buildings

The trend toward “living buildings”—structures, infrastructure and engineered systems that are intelligent, responsive, resilient and adaptable—is redefining approaches to the built environment.  This new wave of design, construction and building operation is not about creating monuments or finished relics but about setting in motion evolving, resource efficient systems that can respond to changing environmental conditions and human needs.  The idea of living buildings presents strategic opportunities for architects and designers to create a built environment that is better able to withstand changing and hostile weather conditions, consume fewer resources to operate, and that can maintain natural systems while improving the health and well-being of occupants.

Final Thoughts

Certification programs such as LEED and the Living Building Challenge, and conferences such as GreenBuild are critical to increasing the level of cross-pollination among industries with a stake in the built environment.   They also contribute to accelerating the pace at which innovation shapes the built environment—improving building performance while saving resources. But sustainability requires stakeholders in the built environment to continuously push beyond established standards and bare minimums, toward the cutting edge—where the early adopters will be rewarded. Innovation is rising from within the green building sector, but most importantly, from outside complementary sectors—including biology, materials science, data systems and business. The leaders in the built environment world will be those who incorporate the newest knowledge and who focus their designs on delivering more value with less total resource mass.

Read more about our presentation from Hallie Busta, an attendee from EcoBuilding Pulse.

postcards from GB
postcards from GB

1 Comment