Posts Tagged ‘Portland’

WAHESC 2014 | PSU’s Jennifer Allen Digs into Sustainability in Academics

January 22, 2014

Jennifer AllenYou won’t want to miss this keynote address by Jennifer Allen, February 7th during The Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference. With areas of expertise in environmental and natural resource policy and administration and sustainable economic development,  Jennifer Allen is an associate professor of Public Administration and director of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University. Her areas of research encompass environmental and natural resource policy and administration and sustainable economic development, with particular focus on green buildings and rural-urban market connections.

WAHESC: As an educator and a researcher, you are serving on several boards for many sustainable and environmental conservation organizations. What are the gaps or disconnects between the academic and businesses in terms of carbon emission reduction, natural resources development and green economy growth?

Jennifer Allen: One of the main challenges to linking academic and business communities is the frequent “disconnect” in terms of timeframe and organizational rhythms; specifically, academic terms will rarely be aligned well with the needs of other organizations for research or support.  In addition, faculty have their own research agendas and may be reluctant to shape these around what organizations need or adapt them with an eye toward economic growth—even if that growth is “green.”

We also lack effective channels for the private sector to share their research needs with academics, and the converse is also true: We lack good channels to share academic work—in a non-academic, more accessible vocabulary—with the private sector.

WAHESC: To bridge those gaps, what are your recommendations and ideas on how private sectors and academics can collaborate to lead sustainability initiatives and build healthy environments on campuses and in communities?

JA: One of the most important things we can do to bridge this divide is to build stronger relationships, mutual understanding, and trust between the community and the university.  One of the ways we are attempting to do this at PSU is through our “Research to Action” event series. We host themed symposia—on topics such as urban sustainability, social determinants of health, and ecosystem services—and invite faculty and community partners to share their ongoing work in clustered 5 minute “blasts”, followed by opportunities for dialogue and partnership-building.  This approach distills PSU’s research activities and the community’s research needs into digestible “bites” and presents them in an accessible format, allowing for give and take discussion between practitioners and researchers.

PSU is also actively engaged with the business community in the area of social entrepreneurship; in our Impact Entrepreneurs program, social enterprise professionals, nonprofits, students and community members work together to “unleash the power of business for social impact”.  One of the most powerful aspects of this program is that it creates an innovation space where academic assets and strategic business thinking come together to address critical social issues.

WAHESC: What leadership role should academics play in environmental stewardship that can effectively influence public policy, sustainable economic development and climate change solution innovation beyond the ivory tower?

JA: Because of their nature as educational and research institutions, universities have the opportunity to serve as respected and effective “conveners” around challenging topics, providing a platform and forum where complex issues can be constructively explored.  For example, PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions has supported research by PSU faculty on the implications of a carbon tax for the State of Oregon, and has provided a number of opportunities for dialogue about the findings of this research. Oregon Solutions is another program at PSU that provides a neutral forum to help partners come together to address challenging community issues.

Another important role for universities is to identify and analyze “best practices” related to sustainability challenges to better understand what works, what doesn’t, and how solutions need adapt to reflect particular organizational or geographical contexts. For example, I’ve done some work in the area of green chemistry, looking at what other states are doing to advance the adoption of safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. In particular we focused on what strategies could help businesses realize a competitive advantage from developing and adopting safer alternatives. Another approach that will resonate with this conference’s audience is to explore how we can make our campus operations “living laboratories” where innovative sustainability strategies are tested and shared—ideally in collaboration with other public and private sector partners.

Finally, institutions of higher education need to be more intentional in developing the leaders of the future: our students. We can do this by providing them with opportunities—both inside and outside the classroom —to grapple with complicated issues, engage with diverse partners from both the public and private sectors, and bring their best and most innovative thinking to develop solutions to the challenges we face and the challenges we don’t yet recognize. This is perhaps the most critical role we can play. I’m excited to learn more about what other colleges and universities are doing on this front and in other areas at the Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference.

About The Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference

The Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference (WAHESC) is a regionally-focused opportunity for those teaching, working or studying within higher education to come together and learn about sustainability in academics, operations, and research. Through facilitated conversation, workshops, presentations and networking opportunities, participants will play a role in advancing environmental performance at Washington State institutions of higher education, support regional policy goals and initiatives, and drive the development of a generation of professionals for whom sustainability is a core tenet of their work and life philosophy.

We hope you will join us Thursday and Friday, February 6-7, 2014 at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington for WAHESC 2014!

The EcoDistricts Summit 2012

November 14, 2012

The second annual EcoDistricts Summit came to a close just under a month ago on October 26, 2012 at Portland State University’s Smith Center. Produced by the Portland Sustainability Institute (PoSI) the Summit is one of the world’s leading conferences dedicated to urban and district-scale sustainability exploring topics such as district energy, water utilities, net-zero buildings, smart grid, networked transportation, urban ecosystem services and zero waste. We had a fantastic time working behind the scenes and assisting in the execution of this year’s summit. Check out the action from the Summit and keep your eye out for EcoDistricts 2013!

EcoDistricts ’11: Photos Are In!

November 10, 2011

Photos from the 2011 EcoDistricts Summit are in! We’re excited to share snapshots from the best moments of this year’s event. Many thanks to event photographer, Edis Jurcys Photography for capturing the spirit of a very invigorating and thought-provoking event!

Day 1

Day 2

EcoDistricts ’11 Scaling Innovation: Sarah Heinicke

October 26, 2011

The Lloyd District is one of Portland’s five Pilot EcoDistricts and is moving forward to build a green-minded, diverse and unique neighborhood with a strong identity and strong ties to sustainability with a business case baked in. District Sustainability Director, Sarah Heinicke, shares her vision and an update on how this neighborhood is tackling environmental and social issues, while seizing opportunities, all at the district scale.

EcoDistricts: Each of the Portland EcoDistrict Pilots are quite distinct in terms of neighborhood culture and circumstance. How does the Lloyd District differ from its counterparts in the program and what priorities have come out of that unique perspective?

Sarah Heinicke: The Lloyd Eco district is comprised of large superblocks, suburban-style office development and governmental uses. The board itself is comprised of leaders from those key stakeholder firms and institutions. Currently there is no representation from the relatively small residential population, or small businesses interests, though we intend to reach out to those communities.

These are the obvious differences when you think of Lloyd District compared to Foster Green, or South Waterfront. Those are material differences, but I think we have a lot more in common than not. The process of implementing these kind of transformative changes on this scale, the issue of board involvement, community advocacy, and the prospect of implementation in a bearish market are challenges all the districts face no matter what their mix.

We are just now initiating our project priorities discussion and although I don’t have a final list to share with you, I can tell you there is a lot of excitement to just get started on something. It’s my job to make sure the project mix is right—from big multi-year, multi-stakeholder efforts to smaller, simpler projects. Projects that are feasible, impactful, executable and have a funding mechanisms built in are the strong favorites. Another priority that has emerged is getting our governance structure in order sooner rather than later so that we know exactly where we stand and to approach the community for support, either in terms of mission or funding.

EcoD: You’ve been in your role for several months now. What kind of vision has your working group developed for the Lloyd EcoDistrict in that time? How is success defined now that you’ve become acquainted with the project, the stakeholders and their priorities?

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EcoDistricts Summit ’11: PoSI’s Naomi Cole on The Compelling Nature of District-Scale

October 18, 2011

The team at Portland Sustainability Institute are quickly becoming the global experts at district-scale innovation. Their EcoDistricts model drives sustainable development in cities through stakeholder mobilization, social and infrastructure improvements across a neighborhood, and integration of best practices into the broader citywide cultural fabric. Three weeks from hosting their third annual EcoDistricts Summit, Program Manager Naomi Cole, talks about the increased value found in working at the district scale and why cities around the world are looking to Portland for a roadmap to sustainable development.

EcoDistricts: How does the development strategy change when working at the district scale rather than on a single structure?

Naomi Cole: It’s an entirely different strategy at a district scale. When working on a physical structure, the overall goal is pretty clear: a successful structure, like a new or retrofitted building, bioswale or energy system for example. When working at an EcoDistrict scale, there are potentially hundreds of projects and strategies to achieve the overall goal of environmental and social performance improvements.

At the district scale, we consider projects in the built environment as well as programs around people and behavior. And most importantly, the mechanisms for achieving these projects become much more complex because there are many more stakeholders than in a single structure. At a minimum, we have neighbors, developers, institutions, a city and utilities. Development at this scale requires a new process for making sustainable cities. We created EcoDistricts to provide a framework and approach for creating sustainable neighborhoods that includes new models of governance, assessment, project innovation, finance and policy.

EcoD: What is the most surprising unforeseen challenge you’ve encountered since working at the district scale and what solution or solutions have you discovered to address it?

NC: The process takes a long time. Stakeholder engagement and buy-in is, in many ways, the most critical step, and that process is dynamic and difficult to control. After we built our EcoDistricts framework we thought we’d be able to progress relatively efficiently in our pilot districts. But the process of engaging neighbors, formalizing partnerships, committing resources and building local capacity is very process heavy and takes time. Engagement has to be done right in order to get to the next steps of assessment and project implementation, which is where we all want to be.

EcoD: What is the single biggest driver of success for the development of an EcoDistrict? Why is it so important?

NC: There are two equally important drivers for success and they are addressed by our first two phases of EcoDistrict development: district organization and district assessment. The district organization process is what I described in the last question — engagement, vision, partnerships, capacity, and governance of stakeholders in an EcoDistrict. If this is done right, the next steps fall into place. The second, and equally critical, driver of success is an effective assessment process to prioritize projects. The biggest question once an EcoDistrict is organized is, “what are the right projects?” An integrated sustainability assessment across a neighborhood is critical for determining high impact projects, low-hanging fruit, and long-term ambitious investments. An effective assessment provides a roadmap for ongoing district sustainability improvements.

EcoD: Are EcoDistricts just a sum of their parts, in terms of benefits, or do the positive impacts grow exponentially when addressed as a collective unit?

NC: Definitely the latter. In fact, we often say, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” to describe the value proposition for EcoDistricts. The intention behind EcoDistricts is a more integrated approach to developing our cities. By thinking district-wide across multiple areas of performance, we see opportunities for investments to do many things at once. Adding bioswales to sidewalks, for example, provides a timely opportunity to lay infrastructure for district utilities, saving huge capital costs by tearing up streets only once. A neighborhood building retrofit program can save energy while also improving comfort, saving on utility bills, creating jobs and increasing property value. We focus on the district scale because it’s a compelling size — small enough to innovate quickly but big enough for meaningful results.

EcoD: What drew you to working at the district scale? Why is this concept so enticing to you personally?

NC: Neighborhoods are the building blocks of cities, so it’s the next scale (beyond buildings) that we have to tackle if we’re going to achieve the kind of ambitious city and regional sustainability goals adopted around the world. My background is in architecture, and I was drawn to architecture because the built environment provides an opportunity to create better places for people and nature. After working on buildings for a few years, I quickly realized that we could only accomplish so much within the walls of a structure. The next opportunity for the sustainability industry is neighborhoods because of the compelling scale.

Social networks enable change, buildings have the potential to share systems, and public spaces are ripe to create community and provide ecosystem services. I like the complexity of the neighborhood scale because we are challenged to consider a range of social, technical, financial and political issues that don’t come up at the building scale, but feel more manageable to address than at a citywide scale.

EcoD: If you could paint a picture of this nation’s cities in 20 years — how does the EcoDistrict fit in? What kind of progress and results do you hope to see over that time as a result of district scale innovation and development? Is there an end game or set of goals PoSI is working towards?

NC: EcoDistricts are a critical step towards eco cities. They aren’t an end in themselves but an important step on the path towards scaling up what works in urban sustainability innovation to address the myriad challenges faced by metropolitan areas. So many sustainability successes are still seen as boutique projects and not transferable. Our goal is not for every neighborhood to become its own independent EcoDistrict. Through EcoDistricts, we aim to innovate at the neighborhood scale to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Then we hope to ultimately make a particular practice, whether it’s neighborhood governance or assessment or finance, become the new norm for how cities operate.

EcoD: What do you think is so compelling about Portland’s EcoDistrict model? Why are cities around the world turning to the Rose City for guidance in developing their own district scale projects?

NC: I think the thing that’s compelling about our work is that we’ve created a framework – a “how to” approach – for getting to sustainable neighborhoods. Every city is looking for this. And while we know what we’ve got now isn’t perfect, it’s the best of what’s out there and it captures lessons learned and case studies from sustainable neighborhood projects around the world. While many cities work in specific neighborhoods with ambitious sustainability goals, we’ve taken a broad approach by developing a transferable framework that we hope can be adopted by cities around the world. In addition, as we respond to inquiries about EcoDistricts, we find that cities are equally interested in our expertise as they are in our leadership in creating learning networks and a place to share lessons learned in creating sustainable neighborhoods.

Naomi Cole is the program manager for Portland Sustainability Institute (PoSI) and a featured speaker at the third annual 2011 EcoDistricts Summit, October 26-28 in Portland, Oregon. Learn more about PoSI and their EcoDistricts model at pdxinstitute.org. Find details on the 2011 EcoDistricts Summit and register at ecodistrictssummit.com.

EcoDistricts Summit 2011: Mark Holland on the Advantages of Neighborhood Scale Development

June 8, 2011

Social Enterprises: What can we do to take sustainable building practices from dots on a landscape (LEED building here, LEED building there) and create cohesive sustainable communities?
Mark Holland: The first step is to expand the focus on sustainability from a “building” to a community – which means adding several additional elements.  I have structured my approach to this around what we have been calling “The 8 Pillars of a Sustainable Community”.  Buildings are one of the pillars – but the other seven outline the scope of planning, design and development of a community:

  1. Land Use – complete community land use patterns
  2. Transportation – low impact transportation systems
  3. Buildings – green buildings
  4. Landscapes – multi-purposed landscapes (ecology, arts and culture, recreation, food production)
  5. Infrastructure – innovative green infrastructure – energy systems, water supply, wastewater management, stormwater management, solid waste systems.
  6. Food – local food systems
  7. Social issues – individual and social health (with facilities and programs to support these)
  8. Economy – local sustainable economies

The key in helping develop sustainable communities is first to consider all of these core issues of a community through a sustainability lens – and then if the focus is on buildings, then identifying how a building needs to be designed to support the full range of goals across all the community elements.

SE: Can you give us a working definition of a sustainable community?
MH: I don’t usually spend a lot of time trying to create succinct definitions of sustainability or sustainable communities – and the thousands of definitions in play today across the world show similarities and differences in how it is expressed.

I look at it as a sustainable community is a one whose prosperity, social system and physical ecosystems are being consciously addressed, designed, developed and maintained to remain healthy and prosperous for the next century.

SE: What does the public gain from planning done at the neighborhood/district scale rather than a building-by-building scale?
MH: Many efficiencies can be achieved by thinking at the district-scale.  The building is one of the most important building blocks in a community, but other efficiencies and benefits can be achieved by thinking about larger systems.  For instance, a building-scale energy system may cost everyone money, but a district energy system can be an important asset, keep energy costs to a minimum, and provide better overall performance, because it can utilize many different sources of energy and balance loads across different buildings that have different uses.  Likewise, a building-scale stormwater management system may be onerous, but one managed at a neighbourhood scale may actually save money and provide significant habitat and community amenity. The same district-scale advantages can be applied to open space, recreation facilities, food production, etc.

SE: What are major hurdles to implementing a district approach to sustainable community development? How do you propose we clear those hurdles?
MH: In a new “master-planned community” context, the district-scale approach can simply be put on the table at the beginning, the necessary utilities involved from the beginning – and it will naturally unfold.  In an infill/redevelopment context, typically the local government has to play a role, or various roles, including:

  • Ensuring there is a good neighbourhood plan that ensures an overall sustainability performance on all the issues I identified in the first question;
  • A multi-stakeholder consultation and choreography role;
  • A financial role using “late-comer” agreements for infrastructure and facilities where needed over time;
  • A utility role as either “the” district utility provider or as a partner with the utilities, often owning the district energy/water pipes that are in the roads between buildings or parcels with different owners.

SE: Why should developers and property owners be on board with the district approach to sustainability? How can it benefit them?
MH: Everyone can optimize their performance and profit when we work at a district scale – as not every building has to take on the responsibility to be self-sufficient or overly complex – and as such, everyone wins.

SE: Can you speak to the idea of making sustainability more approachable and less dogmatic? Why do we need to do it and how do you suggest it be done?
MH: I always take my development clients back to first principles of the core performance accounts which are why we are not sustainable, including:

  • Climate change / air emissions
  • Water
  • Ecosystem health and biodiversity
  • Materials – resources, toxins, waste
  • Sustainable food systems
  • Social needs and health
  • Economic stability and prosperity

I always recommend that a sustainability strategy be created for each project that directly addresses these issues and that directions selected in each of the issues I noted at the beginning (the 8 pillars) be addressed with the unique costs/benefits/opportunities each project presents.  As such, in my experience, no two sustainability strategies are alike.

This approach ensures we address the core sustainability issues in a manner that passes the “straight face test” for each developer, community, neighbourhood, regulatory context, financial reality, etc. Sometimes LEED or another rating system seems to make sense – often we don’t use them (or just reference them) as it’s better to spend money and effort addressing sustainability issues in ways that may not deliver points. It also does away with the concept of pre-requisites as we can make any project perform quite well on most sustainability accounts with a little work.

SE: Some might argue that creating EcoDistricts is gentrification veiled as sustainability. How do we ensure that sustainable districts are developed across the spectrum and remain available, affordable and accessible to all people?
MH: The arguments against gentrification are nonsense.  Gentrification is just a fancy term applied to any kind of redevelopment in an infill context that is occurring because land value is cheaper in older areas (which is also the reason why rents are cheaper and these neighbourhoods are often the home of those of low income).

The only way to stop gentrification is through government intervention and requirements to provide subsidized/non-market housing – which can be achieved in many different ways – and should be pursued in each neighbourhood in order to provide a balanced social environment. Examples of very proactive developers (such as John Knott and the Noisette Project) are increasing where developers are finding ways to support a decent percent of less-than-market prices through other means.

SE: Are there any projects that you feel particularly inspired by lately? Ones that have solved issues and are very likely replicable by other cities/communities?
MH: I like the Dockside project in Victoria.  I worked extensively on the Southeast False Creek project in Vancouver (LEED ND Platinum) and think it turned out pretty good.  I am always inspired by the Noisette Project I mentioned earlier in South Carolina.  I like the projects that are now integrating food systems centrally into their design (we wrote the book Agricultural Urbanism last year on this topic).  We have been involved in a few of these – most notably Southlands in Delta BC, that DPZ did the site plan for.  I also really like the Pearl District in your fair city.

The issue of replicability is difficult – as each factor in a development is always unique to that place and moment in time.  I think it’s more important to look for inspiration in other projects, but to build each project uniquely with the people, champions and resources that are available to that project and place.  I believe strongly in “project terriore” – the unique interesting eccentricities of a place and the people – that get imbued into a project.

SE: What do you hope comes out of the 2011 EcoDistricts Summit? What do our cities and the industry (for lack of a better word) need from it at this moment in time? 
MH: I think the most important thing is to start thinking at the district scale for all things – and to better understand what should be required of developers at a parcel/building scale – and what is really best addressed by the local government at the district scale.

We can achieve much higher sustainability performance and make money doing it if we address core sustainability issues at the district scale first – and then define the responsibility / role of each building/site within that district as we go.

SE: Why is the kind of dialogue available at the EcoDistricts Summit valuable for those developing our cities to engage in? 
MH: Most of the work done on sustainable communities is focused either on the building scale or at the city scale – and yet the district scale is probably the most important.  An event focused on this critical scale to 21st century planning and development is a great opportunity – and on the leading edge.

Ecoroof Portland 2011 ReCap + Photos

March 27, 2011

Last Friday we had the honor of helping run the 3rd annual Ecoroof Portland—and we are happy to report it was a slam dunk! Bringing business and home owners together with industry vendors and experts, Ecoroof Portland celebrates the success the concept has had in the region + facilitates greater adoption going forward. You can learn more about Portland’s internationally renowned ecoroof program at the city’s website.

Ecoroof Portland also featured two internationally renowned keynote speakers, Wolfgang Ansel and Paul Kephart. If you have an interest in ecoroofs we highly recommend you look into their work.

Wolfgang Ansel has a thorough understanding of the policy underpinnings needed to make ecoroofs a mainstream feature of any city and a strategic view of how to win that municipal support. Read more on Wolfgang Ansel here.

Paul Kephart is an expert in incorporating ecoroof design into broader ecological design and shared some fantastic projects he’s been working on, particularly at the California Academy of Sciences. Read more on Paul Kephart here.

Oh by the way, we had our camera handy + captured some of the action. Have a look—you might be famous!

Finally we want to thank all of the sponsors, partners and vendors for helping make Ecoroof Portland 2011 a success. Special thanks go out to the Bureau of Planning and SustainabilityOffice of Healthy Working RiversIntertwineAudubon Society of Portland, and Urban Greenspaces Institute. Also to our fabulous sponsors: Portland Business JournalSustainable IndustriesChinook Book / EcoMetro, and ReDirect Guide; Plus Pop Chips and Honest Tea for providing yummy refreshments for the crowd and Oregon Convention Center for hosting the event at its LEED Silver Certified facility.

Mark LaLiberte: Better Buildings For A Brighter (And Greener) Tomorrow—Part II

March 14, 2011

Today we continue our interview series with building science expert and speaker, Mark LaLiberte, who will keynote the EcoVative Conference, May 10 in Portland. In this session, Mark shares with us how to bring efficient, sustainable design to everyone, and how to work through the industry’s pain points for greater success.

EcoVative: It seems like sustainable building practices, and the benefits and efficiencies they bring, don’t’ always reach the people who need them most. Are you seeing local and state governments change their policies to use more of these techniques in low income and affordable housing?
Mark LaLiberte: Yes. That goes for the rest of the world and for the U.S. as well. In England, 15-20% of the homes they build now have to be “social housing.” They’re actually required to exceed energy requirements that match up with our Energy Star or Energy Star Plus. Through this requirement they transformed England’s building landscape, because social housing improved so drastically in terms of efficiency and air quality. How could they go back into the marketplace for upper-bracket homes and build houses that didn’t even meet the standards that their social housing was built to? They raised the bar substantially and made great impact in doing so.

Bringing that idea back closer to home, I’ve been working with Habitat For Humanity quite a bit. Their Seattle branch (run by Marty Kooistra), for example, has decided that the lower income people they’re building homes for need lower energy bills and improved quality in their living environment and air. I served for years on the American Lung Association’s Board of Directors and we know that respiratory issues like asthma in children are up substaintially—nearly 72% in a 12-year cycle. Plus we see a higher incidence of upper respiratory issues in children who are challenged in terms of their family economics due to the fact that their indoor environments are often compromised.

Everybody needs good quality housing, which includes avoiding materials that include Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and installing hard surface flooring to preserve air quality. Those kinds of things benefit overall health and potentially lower medical costs, while simultaneously lowering out-of-pocket energy costs due to higher efficiency. It makes make a huge difference in the financial stability of a family. And if a non-profit like Habitat For Humanity can do it with ease, then every builder should be able to do it.

EV: What is the industry’s biggest pain point? What issue must be advanced in order to reach the next level of impact and benefit?
ML: This might seem obvious, but it’s something the industry really struggles with, even though there is a straightforward solution. We do not have enough comprehensive involvement in education or put enough investment in training opportunities. We have to set and hold higher expectations for performance.

I ask builders continuously whether they’re paying for inferior quality work—and they all answer they do. If we’re paying for work, we need to demand it be good quality work. But you also have to train your people. Teach them exactly what you want them to do. If their work is sloppy, show them how to fix and improve it. Don’t just let it this stuff get by.

So much of what we do hinges on training and education. I hear from builders all the time that they realized in my class that letting poor work slip is setting a terrible precedent. That they finally saw it’s not about making more money, but about putting a legitimate level of workmanship and craftsmanship into their product.

The question is: How do we get the building industry to embrace workmanship and craftsmanship? Because they both improve durability, which is directly connected to sustainability and achieving better efficiencies. The industry has to step up and promote the need for the education of their trade base and themselves. That applies to suppliers, manufacturers and lumber companies too. We need to get everybody on the same page in terms of what quality looks like from a production and installation standpoint. That alone could single-handedly and dramatically change what we see happening today.

EV: As a country, can we afford to not build greener and more efficiently going forward?
ML: I hope everyone already knows the answer to that, but it’s no. We’re spending $50 billion a month as a country to import energy. That’s unsustainable on every front. Cutting our debt isn’t going to be achieved just by cutting budgets. It has to come through cutting expenses too. What we’ve been doing with our individual and national choices is to fund people who don’t like us. So really, the most intelligent thing we can do for our own safety and prosperity is to move to more sustainable alternatives, supplied right here in the U.S., that help fuel a very efficient economy and society. Without those things we’re in trouble. We just can’t afford to do it any other way. It’s absolutely time to do this. I heard someone pose the precipice recently—what’s the risk of not doing this? Catastrophic. But what’s the risk of doing it? Improving everyone’s lives AND our economic structure. What we need to do is totally obvious. How can we not take that path?

EV: Are there any technologies or techniques you find really exciting that are coming out on the market?
ML: One is that manufacturers are developing a much broader palette of materials for insulating and air-sealing buildings. We know that 30-40% of a typical building’s energy use is wasted in leakage, so it’s huge to have new techniques and methodologies for going into a home and very cost-effectively sealing up the air leaks, while at the same time installing great quality insulation.

With these hybrid air-sealing/insulation systems we’re seeing that the HVAC and heating and cooling industries are able to improve their equipment drastically as well, because the machines don’t have to work as hard. Now we can achieve 95% efficiency and our machines use 1/6th of the gas that a conventional motor for an air conditioning unit does. That’s a direct effect of improvements in building science to form a better foundation and create a less toxic, more efficient enclosure environment for the appliances we choose.

We’re also seeing big advancements in LED lighting and photovoltaics/solar. Where I live, in Arizona,  every home should have a solar domestic hot water system. That simple device would drastically cut back on the energy used to heat water. When it’s 110 degrees outside, it’s pretty crazy  to use a gas-powered water heater to bring your water up to 110 degrees, right? In Hawaii, where it costs 0.25-0.28 cents per kilowatt of electricity, it is now illegal not to have one of these systems installed in a new homes, because its helps save so much energy. We have to take advantage of this kind of  knowledge and technology for our benefit.

EV: What should attendees at EcoVative except to hear from you? Are there any new topics you’re planning to focus on?
ML: I want to talk about how we reengage the process of breaking down our building process into the ten key components: Combustion safety, ventilation, management of water durability, improvement of energy efficiency, optimization of HVAC, window technology, etc. We need to bring these back into play.

We  also need to recognize that consumers are motivated to become better educated and make good choices, and assist them with that process. I find one of the biggest weaknesses is sales people in the construction industry who know very little about how to help buyers in this way. They’re really good about helping with a down payment and navigating paperwork, but they aren’t as good at educating buyers on what to look for in a home to achieve their goals for it.  There’s a big gap there.

What I’ll be talking about is:

1) How to build a better building today
2) How to make sure we sell and communicate the benefits to today’s consumer
3) How we use that to define who we are as business people. We have to ask and find answers for who we want to be today and who we want to become in the future—and then act accordingly.

Part of our legacy as builders is leaving great buildings for the next generations. We know how to do it. The technology is there. The time to learn and apply these technologies and methodologies is now. And I really hope everyone who attends will take full advantage of the opportunities provided at EcoVative. I hope they go talk to people and ask questions, attend classes, make connections and learn things they didn’t know when they walked in that morning. I want to challenge them to meet 10 new people, pick up 10 new ideas to incorporate going forward and discover five things they want to change the day they get back on the job. Those are the things that conferences like EcoVative can do for the industry and its professionals–but only if they take advantage of the opportunity to get better.

Mark LaLiberte is a world renowned speaker and building science expert. He will be the keynote speaker at the 2011 EcoVative Conference and Expo, May 10 at the Holiday Inn Portland South in Wilsonville. For more details on EcoVative and to register, please visit: http://www.ecovativeconference.com. Get updates and the latest news on the EcoVative Facebook Page:http://www.facebook.com/ecovative.

Learn more about Mark LaLiberte on his website:http://www.laliberteonline.com

On Deck: EcoVative Conference is May 10, 2011

February 16, 2011

It’s officially event season—and our crew has another stellar sustainable experience for you to add to your calendars. EcoVative Conference and Expo, put on annually by the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland, is the region’s premier event for Oregon and Southern Washington home builders, contractors, vendors and realtors to unite education and practice for green building techniques and technology.

EcoVative takes place May 10, 2011 at the Holiday Inn Portland South in Wilsonville. It offers a full-day track of awesome speakers, educational sessions and courses, many of which count as credit towards CCB Continuing Education. EcoVative also hosts a robust Expo, featuring the region’s best green building vendors and high-level networking opportunities.

If you’re in the business, we hope you’ll join us May 10 for EcoVative! Spread the word—and don’t forget that CCB credits are available for attendees! Visit the EcoVative Conference website for more information: http://www.ecovativeconference.com.

NEWS: US Congressman Earl Blumenauer To Speak At EcoDistricts Summit

October 7, 2010

We’ve received word that US Congressman Earl Blumenauer will give opening remarks on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at the EcoDistricts Summit. We’re very honored and excited to have him on board! Congressman Blumenauer is the perfect candidate to give opening remarks—being a career advocate for sustainability and instrumental in cultivating Portland’s development as a respected international player in the green building and sustainable planning sectors.

Portland Sustainability Institute‘s second annual EcoDistricts Summit, which takes place October 25-27 in Portland, Oregon, will bring together policy makers, educators and design, planning and development professionals for dialogue around the ground-breaking concept of integrated district-scale sustainability projects. Topics covered through a district-scale lens include: district utilities, green buildings, smart grid, transportation, urban habitat, water management, waste management and community development.

If you would like to learn more about the EcoDistricts Summit and/or register to attend, please visit: http://www.ecodistrictssummit.com

You can also join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

 

 


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