Building a Model for Sustainable Development

Architectural Record News has published an overview of last weeks Greenbuild, the annual conference of the US Green Building Council. Celebrity speakers such as Ray Anderson and Paul Hawken would certainly partially account for the growth of this event (it’s grown by “nearly tenfold since 2002”), but I’m particularly impressed by the range of innovation presented at the conference:

This year has been marked by growth and many milestones for the council, said [Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC’s president and CEO] during his plenary address. Technical guides for the two newest LEED rating systems, for commercial interiors and existing buildings, were released in 2005. The original LEED system for new construction was also updated, with changes to several credits. New rating systems for homes, core and shell buildings, and neighborhood developments are underway. Fedrizzi also stressed the importance of the 60-plus local chapters of USGBC, calling them “the front doors” for green design professionals. In addition, the council extended membership privileges to trade organizations for the first time this year. “Opening our doors to new members creates opportunities greatly increases our ability to effect market transformation,” he said….

Many applauded the council’s intention to implement LEED for Neighborhood Developments (LEED-ND), which goes beyond the scale of individual buildings to address the environmental performance of communities. The standard will be released in draft form in 2007. The Congress for New Urbanism is participating in its development, among other groups. Andres Duany, who is considered by many to be the founder of the New Urbanism, heralded the achievements of LEED and the environmental movement, but added that its rhetoric needs to evolve. “The American model of environmentalism uses only the tools of nature to make its case for environmental protection,” he said. “It also needs to embrace culture-the realities of human activity and interaction with nature-to be successful.” His remarks drew laughs and applause. Duany is among those working on LEED-ND, which he says, “must intercept and understand” patterns of human habitation that lead to sprawl before they spread to cultures outside the U.S.

It’s easy to see why green building is the most widely recognized form of sustainable development in the United States: the USGBC and others have achieved tremendous results in just a few years. Judging from this report, those results stem from an ability to see the role of building construction within a larger framework (i.e. Duany’s claim that culture should figure into building considerations). Congrats to the USBGC for what looks like a successful event, and for broadening all of our horizons when thinking about sustainable development.

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