Dan Probst is chairman of sustainability at Jones Lang LaSalle
SAN FRANCISCO-Speakers and attendees at Greenbuild 2012, held last week in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, echoed the sentiments of many sustainability-focused professionals: Energy efficiency and sustainability have been shown to be as good for business and economic growth as they are for the environment, but too many business influencers either haven’t received or don’t believe the evidence.
With attendance near 30,000 and with more than 1,000 exhibitors, Greenbuild is the largest annual forum for discussion of the challenges and solutions facing the green building industry today. In the wake of the presidential election, political considerations took center stage in the opening plenary session. U.S. Green Building Council president Rick Fedrizzi blamed “uninformed politicians” for skepticism on climate change. Environmentalist author Paul Hawken drew audience applause for claiming that large sums of corporate money helped to mislead the public on environmental dangers.
A panel led by Joe Scarborough and Miki Brzezinski, co-hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, focused on the politicization on clean energy. Only Twitter co-founder Biz Stone offered an opposing view in one of the mornings most retweeted lines: “People don’t care about sustainability when they’re starving to death.”
Cities increasingly care about sustainability, as evidenced by sessions on the San Francisco Bay Area’s plans for resilience, the EcoDistricts programs springing up in several cities, and ways the C40 Climate Leadership Group is making a difference around the world. GlobeSt.com recently posted an article about the City’s new green financing program.
Among the conference events, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was on hand for a ceremony celebrating the LEED certification of Moscone Center’s North and South Buildings, alongside officials from the city’s Environment and Public Works departments as well as Jones Lang LaSalle project managers who led the renovation and certification process.
Other educational sessions focused on obstacles and solutions in the green building world. Hot topics include financing for energy retrofits, measuring the green value of building re-use, and getting owners and tenants to work together to improve sustainability.
The consensus at many sessions—and of attendees and exhibitors in general—is that strong progress is being made at all levels of the green building industry, but change continues to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.