ICYMI: Takeaways from Greenbuild 2019

Important Sustainability Trends in the Built Environment 

GHT’s own Meghan McAvoy, Sustainable Programs Manager and Brad McNiff, Principal, recently attended a series of educational sessions focused on the betterment of building design at Greenbuild 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.

This year’s theme was A New Living Standard and there was a renewed focus on health & well-being, serving underrepresented communities, and the impacts of materials on building’s life cycle.

Storytelling and communicating the value of sustainability were also highlighted at several sessions, including the keynote with President Barack Obama and the Women in Green Luncheon with keynote speaker Mildred McClain. Obama touched on his sustainability story – how growing up in Hawaii inspired him to care about environmental issues and how his children encouraged more sustainable day-to-day practices within their home. Dr. McClain highlighted the importance of storytelling as a means of connecting with people and the necessity of those in a position of privilege to bolster those around them.

Water Usage

A notable session relevant to sustainable design methods included Water Case Studies | Greywater & Rainwater which highlighted water re-use strategies.  Several water reclamation case studies presented allowed attendees to compare regional challenges pursuing these strategies with recent GHT experiences.  Regardless of project location, it is critically important to work with jurisdictional health departments, select systems and equipment carrying proper certifications, and understand the maintenance and technical operations capacity of the end user to ensure successful implementation.

Tenant Engagement

Engaging tenants was a highlight at various Greenbuild education sessions. LinkedIn achieved dramatic energy savings by involving occupants in a competition at their Empire State Building office to find sources of and improve overall energy usage.

The Urban Land Institute has created a Tenant Energy Optimization Program (TEOP) to ameliorate the split incentive issue faced by building owners who develop projects and their tenants who occupy the space and pay the bill.

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) put together scavenger hunts in the area of their new space before moving in to provide employees with a sense of place. They also conducted focus groups on team goals and processes to maximize space utilization.

Tishman Speyer created Zo, an app which offers services for their tenants ranging from on-site massages and yoga classes to dog-walking and speaker events. It helps them gather insights to create targeted programs and maximize employee potential for their tenants.

Wellness and Other certifications

Between educational sessions, attendees walked through the showroom floor to discover emerging products and technologies. The rapidly growing industry passion for indoor health and wellness was well-reflected in the showroom vendor offerings. Several manufacturers discussed indoor air quality (IAQ) technologies and new products that had great application potential for future MEP designs.

This year’s Greenbuild looked beyond LEED to other third-party certifications that impact performance and occupants. Triovest is using the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (RHFAC) to evaluate and improve accessibility of their buildings.

The Wild Wild West End program in London seeks to improve green spaces and understanding of green infrastructure services, mitigate urban heat island effect and maintain durability and resilience of assets.

Perkins + Will pursued LEED, WELL, and Fitwel certifications to demonstrate their commitment to a healthy indoor environment on the historic renovation of their office in Dallas.

More projects are looking to Net Zero Energy and Net Zero Carbon certification, such as the Unisphere in Silver Spring, which is Net Zero Energy. With a focus on carbon, there’s an increased scrutiny on embodied carbon, which makes up an increased portion of a building’s overall footprint as the building becomes more efficient.

Final Thoughts

This year’s Greenbuild established that people are looking beyond LEED to engage tenants, demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, and reduce carbon impact.