Greenbuild gears up for a more sustainable future
Q&A with 2015 Greenbuild Conference and Expo Director
Greenbuild International Conference and Expo is one of the largest building conferences and expos in the world that is dedicated to all things green. Greenbuild features three days of inspiring speakers, networking opportunities and industry showcases, not to mention LEED workshops and tours of the city’s green buildings. This year’s show is from November 18-20, and takes place at the Washington Convention Center, in Washington, D.C.
Lindsay Roberts, show director for Informa Exhibitions, which is in charge of Greenbuild 2015, breaks down the conference and expo, and pinpoints some of this year’s key topics. Roberts has been with Informa Exhibitions, a business-to-business company, since 2001.
PE:What is the anticipated attendance and who is coming?
LR: The anticipated attendance this year at Greenbuild is 20,000. Since the conference is set to take place in Washington, D.C., we anticipate an increase in international attendees. We also expect an increase in the residential side of Greenbuild, since there are a large number of local builders and contractors who are in that marketplace and within driving distance to the D.C. location. Finally, we anticipate an uptick in government officials, again based on our D.C. location.
PE: What should first time attendees look forward to?
LR: Greenbuild is not just your regular business-to-business trade show. There’s this amazing energy and community feeling, despite it being a large event. I’ve been to a lot of trade shows, and I’ve been doing this a long time. Greenbuild definitely blew me away the first time I attended. I remember being slightly overwhelmed by the number of events. It’s a lot as a first time attendee to wrap your head around, but I think that’s a great thing.
Once you get there, and you meet the people and you feel that energy, you will know it’s not just about green energy; it’s a lifestyle. Attendees are completely engaged. Another thing to look forward is the sustainability of the show itself. Every aspect of the tradeshow itself is sustainable — from printed materials to exhibitor guidelines to post-show waste. A lot of planning went into making this trade show sustainable.
PE: There will be more than 200 sessions packed together and stretched over a few days. Where should attendees start?
LR: The three-day core program is organized by industry sector and skill levels. There are over 100 informational sessions going on Wednesday through Friday, with 15 concurrent time slots. One of my favorite aspects of Greenbuild is the Master Series speakers, who are meant to be inspirational and will re-energize you to tackle the more technical sessions throughout the day. The sessions are still about sustainability, but they are more geared toward getting you to feel like you can change the world.
Add-ons include three full-day summits on Monday and Tuesday that include focused content. This year the International Summit returns. Attendees will hear about the latest solutions to compelling global issues including urbanization, population growth, water scarcity, energy scarcity and finance. Also on Monday and Tuesday are the workshops. Workshops will take place in low-key learning environments with one instructor and no more than 50 people in each room.
We also have a ton of tours associated with the show happening on Monday, Friday and Saturday. It’s a great way to kick off the week and close the week, too. You will get to experience the city and the local culture. It’s fun mixed with business, which I think is really important for trade shows.
PE: What are some of the hot topics and key focus points on energy this year?
LR: Human health and how that relates to the built environment is a hot topic right now. Last year, the WELL Building Standard was rolled out right around the time Greenbuild started, and that has people really excited. Human health and wellness is one of those things that you think of that goes beyond business — where our kids go to school, where we live and play — all of those environments affect our health. We had a workshop on the Standard, and as soon as we opened it, it sold out. So, we are adding another one. A few of our tours and sessions are also geared toward human health, and those are filling up quickly as well. The wellness piece is exciting to me. It expands past the built environment and it affects everything.
We even have rooms — we call them special sets — which are upgraded learning environments in a meeting room. We have special stages and lighting. This is something that makes the session itself a little more fun.
Another buzz worthy focus this year, as always, is anything around LEED. The first two LEED sessions sold out this year. This is always one of our show’s biggest takeaways for people.
PE: What are tours Greenbuild is offering this year?
LR: In the “Bike DC: Transit, Health, and Gardens” tour, participants will bike through historic and revitalized areas of downtown D.C. This is nice because you get to be active as well as learn about the city during various stops and exhibits.
“New School, New Rules: Sustainable Class is in Session” will feature three inspirational and innovative projects. Attendees will visit three schools and learn about how public and private schools alike have embraced green building. It’s interesting how children are introduced to sustainability younger and younger, and how it truly affects the way they learn in a healthy and clean learning space.
Yet another is called “Platinum Pride: Sustainable Excellence,” which will showcase three LEED Platinum projects near downtown D.C. We have more tours than we’ve had previous years. A lot of them are already sold out or are close to selling out. All sound exciting to me.
PE: Are there any special events planned for the expo catered to young people?
LR: Our film festival is one example. It’s fairly simple. We’ve had people submit throughout the year any films or documentaries that touch on sustainability in any way, shape or form. Then we showcase those in a meeting room. It’s a way to relax and unwind. We’ve got couches and popcorn. We tend to see some of the younger attendees enjoying this room a bit more.
Another program that we have is our volunteer program. If you are a full-time student or 25 years and below, you can sign up to volunteer at Greenbuild. We get anywhere from 400-500 volunteers each year. If you volunteer eight hours, we give you a full conference pass at no charge. Each year we have a ton of energetic volunteers, so it’s just a win-win all the way around.
Finally, there is the TalentFX program. This is something that our official partner of the show, USGBC, spearheads. They provide mentoring for those who have just entered the workforce or who are just getting ready to enter the workforce. They can get advice and ask their questions about how industry experts got to the positions they are in now and what some of their struggles were. It’s a complicated marketplace; this program allows participants to ask questions like ‘How do I integrate myself?’ and ‘How can I be successful?’
Greenbuild is excited to announce that the Opening Plenary, “What Will it Take to Get Meaningful Action on Climate Change?” will feature filmmaker James Cameron and Mika Brzezinski, author, journalist and co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
PE: Is there anything new happening at the expo compared to past years?
LR: This year, as I mentioned, we are bringing back the International Summit. This is a way for the international audience to network and get familiar with the facility and events before the show opens on Wednesday. We also have a few new pavilions on the show floor. We noticed a lot of interest at previous shows around water, lighting and technology, so these are three new pavilions that we’ve added.
Secondly, we’ve added a new top-tier partner to Greenbuild — the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This is a pretty big deal to have NAHB represented, especially as we continue to grow the residential sector of this show. They have their own trade show but also know how important it is to raise awareness about sustainable building and design. On the same coin, we’ve really expanded our residential offerings this year. Though there are offerings throughout the show, Thursday is entirely dedicated to the residential side. We will have three to four concurrent sessions going on focused on both single-family and multi-family building. On that day alone, attendees can have access to 15-plus sessions.
Finally, what’s new is the separation between the big Opening Plenary and celebration event, which were combined the past two years. The big idea this year is that we will open the show with the Plenary on Wednesday morning before the show opens. And then we want to close the event on Thursday evening, which will take place at the Newseum, an interactive museum in D.C. We’ve got Fitz and the Tantrum as the music entertainment. We wanted to separate the business and fun. The idea behind Thursday is to network, relax and have fun.
PE: Who are some of the key people and organizations responsible for putting together what is sure to be an exciting show?
LR: I’ve been doing this for 15 years. You know that saying, ‘it takes a village’? There are so many people responsible for making this event what it is. USGBC, who originally launched and owned the show, is a crucial, integrative partner for this event. They are the ones who provide us with all of the critical, industry information for what’s going on in sustainable building and design. They also secure all of the conference’s educational content, which is their area of expertise. We work together incredibly closely.
There are too many integrative partners to list, but I would say we have 60 plus. We have our top tier partners, which are AIA, BOMA and NAHB, and then we have our sector partners, or the main associations within any given industry sector. And then each year, we find new, regional partners. We also have our media partners; so many publications are important to building excitement about this show. Next we have our host chapter, who works closely with USGBC, develop all of the tours for us and help market the show.
Finally, we have a huge group of volunteers. The sheer number is remarkable, and I haven’t seen it like this at other shows. Our attendees, industry professionals and exhibitors volunteer and make Greenbuild what it is. We have 20 plus volunteers that apply to be a part of our program working group. They help us all year long developing that educational conference program. We have a group that helps out in our special set rooms. We have education and events committees. It’s a huge base of intelligent, passionate professionals that volunteer their time. They put in a lot of hours. And that’s not that common, in my opinion. Like I said, the list is quite long, but it’s awesome to have that many people in this industry invested.
PE: Any other special events that our readers may be interested in?
LR: We have three key events that operate outside the main full conference pass package. First, we have the Women in Green Breakfast. It’s a really large group. We have one person at each table who leads the conversation and provides a list of questions to discuss. The discussion pertains to women in the industry. Building and Construction is primarily male-dominated. Then again, to see how many women are involved on the sustainable side of this industry is amazing. It’s incredible how many women are a part of Greenbuild.
Second, we have the Leadership Award Luncheon that recognizes some of the leaders in the industry. And third is the Executive Luncheon. This one is invite-only, focusing on high-end content, networking, new trends in the industry, etc.
Then, there is the Legacy Project. We make sure that when we go into a city, we leave something behind. We don’t want to just build a show, tear it down and then leave. Each year we pick a legacy project. We vote and dedicate funds and resources. This year, we are working with the Capital Area Food Bank on an urban food garden.
PE: Does Greenbuild have anything already in the works for the 2016?
LR: Though we are still focusing mostly this year’s event, we have begun to get the ball rolling for next year. We already have the floor plan developed, the rates set and exhibitors are already signing up. We have done site visits and secured hotels already in Los Angeles. Our dates are October 5-6 , 2016 for the expo and October 5-7, 2016 for conference.