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Greenbuild 2019 Atlanta

Day 1

Big Ideas come out of this year’s Greenbuild: 

The Future of LEED Will be Positive

Arc Now Free, Includes Category Certs and "Insight"

EC3 Links Whole-Building Life-Cycle Assessment to Products

"Better Materials" Simplifies Search and Documentation for HPDs, EPDs, and More


An early flight made for plenty of time to get my badge, walk by the solar covered parking by the ferris wheel, score a delicious late lunch sandwich, and catch up on some work before hitting the ground running for my first year at the BuildingGreen Peer Network Show and Tell. 

I didn't really know what to expect and only knew I had 5 minutes to present. Turns out most of the presentations are generally approached as previews of coming Greenbuild sessions, but as I wasn't a presenter I focused my talk on a general introduction of myself and Morrissey Engineering. All in all, the SDL Show and Tell was a really good time. (If you're the kind of person who defines something like 20+ presentations in 2 hours as a "good time").

The Sustainable MEP Leaders group is new this year, with 33 current members. I unfortunately joined after the inaugural summer summit, but that's certainly an event I look forward to attending in future years too. 

The event was excellent, especially with HH and pizza before, and I'd recommend to anyone interested. Participation in the Peer Networks is already something I've come to value highly and I've always admired the tireless work of the BuildingGreen team. 

Presentations ran from 8-10pm in the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design on the Georgia Tech campus. In this amazing new building, pursuing ILFI certification with goals of BOTH net-zero energy (currently performing, net-positive as I understand it) and net-zero water. Originally I only took pictures in the bathroom. Of the composting foam toilets, of the signage related to the toilets, of the signage noting that the rainwater-to-potable water system wasn't up and running yet. But, yeah. Only of the bathroom. Luckily I went back on Friday. More on that later.

After some minimal hours of sleep, it was time to get in line for the Wednesday keynote at the Convention Center. Perhaps the most in-demand session ever presented at Greenbuild… 


8:30am - WK

Wednesday Keynote: A Conversation with President Barack Obama

The keynote was a discussion with USGBC president and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam. Since that conversation has been covered extensively elsewhere online, I won't try to reproduce anything exceptional here. Suffice to say that yes, President Obama did indeed refer to LEED as "LEEDS" at Greenbuild. Just goes to show that it's a common mistake. 

A portion of the conversation that really resonated with me - as it's something we often discuss at work was this: 

A chronic problem of “do-gooders,” he said, is that “sometimes we like to tell people what they should think is important, rather than actually asking them what's important to you.” He shared the advice he has given to emerging community organizers: “Your first job is not to talk, but to listen.” 

This was obviously a popular take-home point as it was also covered in the BuildingGreen article titled Obama: "Listen to People First".

Next I hit several sessions… 

10:15am - EL15

A discussion on health and wellbeing, WELL and LEED alignments, Fitwel criteria, and the circular economy. 


11:15am - A02

How Much Carbon is in Your Cyclical Renovations?

How much does the interiors of a building impact the overall building embodied carbon over its lifespan, and how can we design to reduce the embodied carbon that compounds through frequent renovations? 

Had some ponderings here on the difference between embodied carbon and sequestered carbon. Definitely different things. Future LinkedIn post coming soon perhaps… 


12:30pm - EL21

Shaw Industries Presents: Turn Down the Volume with Acoustical Insights

Articulate how building and design trends lead to noise-related challenges.

Did you know that the #1 complaint of multi-family residences is impact-related noises? People walking, dogs nails, things being dropped… if you've ever had an upstairs neighbor in an apartment building you know what I'm talking about. The worst-case scenario here is the top-level apartment gym… But don't worry, they have an ASTM test for everything:

And did you know that IBC includes acoustical requirements?

Some networking time over lunch in the conference call then, as I scarfed down a surprisingly delicious plate of BBQ. Then it was off to a Biophilic Design Update discussion at the BuildingGreen booth and special guest Bill Browning from Terrapin Bright Green. And like any good fan, I asked to take a photo with Bill - and like a good professional, I also solicited some project advice. 

Then more educational sessions, of course!


2:30pm - B05

Passive Resilience for the Future Climate


4:00pm - C09

Machine Learning to Calibrate MIT’s Energy Planning Tool

Explain conceptually how machine learning algorithms can auto-calibrate individual building energy models based on historic data.


Day 2

Definitely less waiting in line before the morning keynote than yesterday. 

9:00am - TK

Thursday Keynote: Jeanne Gang - Creating Connections: People, Communities and Environments

Jeanne Gang, the second women to ever earn the MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship, was recently named the world's most influential architect of 2019 by Time magazine. 

What do we do if clients don’t want to pay for green?  

  • Ourselves. Get accredited. Credentials. 
  • Our buildings. Green your own properties. Homes. Offices. 
  • Our neighbors. Share results. Activate others. Inspire others to the same. 
  • Community. All of us. How do we connect people to their environments. Craft projects to serve the community inside and out. Not just interior occupants.
  • Humanity. Seems like an enormously huge scale. Impacts to ecology. Animals and water. Relationships between people, and other species and our environment. Architecture as ecology. 

"Trust is in precipitous decline". We need to work actively to combat this trend.  

10:15am - EL40

GAF Presents: Climate Resilient Buildings: Design for Change

Implement climate resilient design through emerging resilient design standards and rating systems, such as RELi and Fortified.


11:15am - D03

How To Say Zero in Swedish: NollCO2 Climate Neutral Building

Before the landmark agreement at COP21 to reduce global warming to +1.5°C, the Swedish government established Fossil Fuel Free Sweden, an initiative to make Sweden the world’s first fossil fuel free welfare state by 2045. Enter NollCO2, Sweden’s first certification system for climate-neutral buildings


12:30pm - EL26

Interface Presents: How to Own Your Entire Carbon Footprint (Including the Supply Chain)

This session brings together two progressive owner perspectives on approaching the embodied carbon of building materials as part of carbon reduction targets beyond operational energy. 


3:00pm - F12

New Paradigm: Architect/Engineer Collaborative Energy Models

While traditional building and HVAC designs have permitted architecture and engineering teams to work independently of one another, implementing newer low-energy systems often demands that both teams blend their skills and actively collaborate. With this paradigm shift towards collaboration, the use of energy models is changing from a singular model built by one person with one piece of software to an interconnected network of studies where the outputs of one study inform the inputs of another.

  •  Define peak load parameters for architectural concept study, parametric analysis based on physical space limitations, or as potentially a part of parallel coordinate analysis (design explorer).
  • E+ and T700 model results presented within approximately 1% of each other.
  • Parametric THERM model to study radiant cooling application design options for: water temperatures, pipe sizing, spacing, slab (top/bottom), thickness, determined peak solar loads on the slab (too much solar heat gain) resulted in glazing size changes. 


4:00pm - EL66

Interface Presents: How Can Buildings Become Carbon Sinks?

Believe it or not, it is possible to have factories, buildings, cities perform as well as natural ecosystems.

  • A new company I hadn't heard of yet
  • What do cities need to thrive? 
  • EC3 tool discussion (just launched at Greenbuild, EC3 came up a lot).


5:15pm - 

Thursday Speaker Spotlight: Peter Sorckoff - Branding: The Architecture of Experience

Seer brings more than 20 years of marketing, strategy and branding experience to the table in every interaction, leveraging his deep understanding of the human subconscious and the emerging phenomenon he calls ‘Fandom’. 


6:00pm - CEL

Greenbuild Celebration 

The Greenbuild Celebration is one of the events that makes Greenbuild truly unique, featuring a night of locally sourced food, drinks, entertainment and, of course, a whole lot of fun. This year's entertainment was Collective Soul - remember those guys? I kind-of do. Seeing the inside of the Mercedes-Benz stadium was really interesting. Also, this venue is the first LEED Platinum professional sports stadium.

Somewhere in there I fit a few awesome dinners at local restaurants South Side Kitchen and Chai Pani

And don't forget the after-celebration party. (You haven't lived until you've seen / participated in a room of sustainability professionals dancing to EDM with a backdrop slideshow of work-related project information). 


Day 3

8:00am - G03

Breaking the Cost Barrier Thru Data and Design

Evaluate HVAC design loads to ensure that systems are right sized as an integrated design response to exterior improvements while balancing first costs.

  • I really appreciated the analogy of peak HVAC system sizing to buying the minivan to haul around the whole baseball team once or twice a year. 
  • Consider the implementation of triple glazing and the subsequent removal of perimeter heating systems to make up for the glazing first cost. 
  • Exterior enclosure cost data for MSBA / BAA. Look at combined cost for enclosure and HVAC systems.


10:00am - H09

Step Into the Data. Envisioning New Visualization Tools

A provocative facilitated visioning exercise about what visualization tools (Mixed Reality, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality) could provide in terms of building and community sustainability and resilience. 

12:00pm - FK

Friday Keynote: Communicating the New Climate Change Movement Across Generations

A panel discussion focused on the intersection of youth activism, science and communication

Sorry to say that I actually missed the Friday keynote, but I had a flight to catch and wanted to get a better look at the Kendeda Building back at Georgia Tech. Happy to say that this time I took pictures of plenty more than toilets. (And even learned some interior designer tricks of the trade). 

When we were done marveling at the green roof, the solar panels, the rainwater capture system, the material details, the triple pane fritted glazing, and yes, the toilets… it was time to head back to the airport again and say goodbye to Greenbuild for another year. There is way more to do than one person could ever take in, and there is plenty to keep one interested from educational seminars to networking opportunities, expo hall presenters and products, tours, workshops, and so much more. Not to mention that it oftentimes feels like a reunion. For all of these reasons and more, I'd say it was another great year and I once again leave energized and excited for all of the challenging work ahead.