Greenbuild 2013: Beyond Energy Codes

Publication Date: 
Friday, December 13, 2013
Paul Karrer

Greenbuild exposes its participants to a lot of new things in sustainable building: new ideas, new strategies, new products, and new people. While I was blown away by the number of attendees (I’ve seen estimates ranging from 20,000 to 30,000) from all over the spectrum of leaders in their fields, I was reminded of how much the larger universe of stakeholders in the building design and construction process dwarfs this group.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s yearly international conference and expo headed to a new venue in 2013: the City of Brotherly Love and the freshly expanded Philadelphia Convention Center. My BCAP colleagues Maureen Guttman and Cosimina Panetti and I attended the three-day event with an eye for the codes and energy performance areas. I also planned to take pick up all of all continuing education (CE) hours for my LEED Green Associate credential.


This thing was huge. The Expo Hall required a golf cart to get across its length of four city blocks, and USGBC turned to a Division I college basketball arena to host the keynote address by Hillary Clinton and celebration concert by Bon Jovi (my vote for next year: get Outkast to extend their 2014 reunion tour).

I couldn’t help, however, thinking about how this solar system of green building professionals and advocates and luminaries compares to the galaxy of players who design, build, operate, and live and work in most of the buildings going up today. No doubt the green building movement is spreading and LEED is maturing, but I’ll bet a whole bunch of their contemporaries in a lot of places in America don’t give a hoot about Greenbuild.

If you ever go to New York City, visit the American Museum of Natural History and the Scales of the Universe exhibit. The 87-foot diameter Hayden Sphere “serves as a central reference for illustrating the relative sizes of galaxies, stars, planets, cells, and atoms, with text panels and models that invite visitors to make different sets of comparisons. For example, if the sphere represents the Sun, Earth would be the size of a grapefruit.” In my experience interacting with the sector, the green building movement is still closer to the grapefruit.

A useful analogy from the codes world: If energy efficiency or building performance (or whatever) is the a big block, there are leadership standards in front like LEED pulling the block forward, but there are also minimum baseline policies like building energy codes in back pushing the block from behind. You won’t find a bigger supporter of the green building movement than me or BCAP – in fact, check out the Beyond Code Portal we launched this week on OCEAN for some awesome introductory resources for beyond code policies like LEED. Just don’t forget about the set of folks outside that grapefruit that we need to keep pushing by adopting efficient, cost-effective energy codes and providing the resources needed to successfully implement and enforce them.

Greenbuild 2014 heads to New Orleans next October and Washington, D.C. in 2015. See you there?


Miscellaneous observations:

  • For those attending education session for CE credits: Plan your schedule in advance, and take the 10-minute grace period seriously (I was 11 minutes late to an 8am course and the computers will not let you scan in for CE credit).   
  • Totally unrelated to what I work on, but hands down the coolest individual session I saw was the Timber Tower Education Lab by WoodWorks. This research project by Skidmore Owings and Merrill (one of the largest and most influential architectural and engineering firms in the world).
  • Being on top of the Reading Terminal Market was a primo location for lunch. Anything you can imagine eating is in that place.
  • More deep thoughts on Twitter at @PaulKarrer


Learn more: Greenbuild 2013 | USGBC | LEED v4 | LEED Credentials

OCEAN Beyond Code Portal | @BCAPOCEAN | @PaulKarrer


Paul Karrer, LEED Green Associate, is a Project Manager for National Advocacy at BCAP. Paul is engaged in a number of policy issues in the building energy codes universe including adoption, compliance, outreach, and technical support. He manages a number ongoing technical tools including the BCAP Incremental Cost Analysis Project and the BCAP Code Calculator. Paul has been a proud member of the Alliance to Save Energy since 2008.

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lucas2014's picture

They focus more on the proper ways to save energy.

lucas2014 - May 28, 2014 8:16am

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