USGBC's Austin Conference a Great Success

Likely to be remembered as a watershed in the sustainable building movement, the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) first annual International Conference & Exposition, held in Austin, Texas in November 2002, was a resounding success. while the Council hoped for about 2000 attendees, the final tally, including exhibitors, was 4189 registrants.The conference was preceded by a “member day” in which about 500 Council members learned about new initiatives and met in committees to work on LEED and other programs.

The two-and-a-half day conference featured 80 breakout sessions. Two concurrent conferences added to the excitement: UPEx’02 (Photovoltaic Experience Conference) and Texas Renewables ’02. The sold-out expo – 220 booths and tabletop displays – included product manufacturers, industry trade groups, design and engineering firms, building contractors, commissioning agents, environmental organizations and government agencies. Despite the expo’s short duration, exhibitors were ecstatic at the level of interest in their products. A remarkable 92% renewed for the 2003 conference!

DuPont Textiles & Interiors (DTI), manufacturer of Antron carpet fibers, donated the conference greenhouse gas emission credits to the Leonardo Academy’s Cleaner and Greener program on behalf of the USGBC. The credits, earned through the voluntary installation of emission abatement equipment at DTI’s Sabine River Works facility in Orange, Texas, represent avoidance of 2100 tons of greenhouse gas emissions – more than that caused by all travel, hotels, and other operations connected to the conference.

The Vinyl Institute and Greenpeace, among others went head to head, vying to influence the USGBC’s policy on the use of PVC in buildings. Greenpeace organized a fairly mild protest in front of the Convention Center on opening day. Following several years of groundwork, the Council’s Technical and Scientific Committee announced the formation of a subcommittee to come up with recommendations on whether the use of PVC should be discouraged in the LEED Rating System. (A second subcommittee formed to study LEED’s position on HCFCs.) Documentary filmmaker Judith Helfand presented the anti-PVC film, Blue Vinyl at a nearby theatre to a capacity crowd. More than 100 people were turned away.

The Council announced several developments at the conference. The long-awaited World Green Building Council was officially launched. Though it is still in an informal network stage, WGBC will eventually coordinate and assist national green building organizations as they mature. The WGBC is accepting country applications online.

The Committee on State and Local Government released their Tool Kit for creating new green building programs. And the streamlined version 2.1 of LEED was officially launched. The new version does not make substantive changes, it aims to clarify some points of confusion and simplify the application process.

There was a one-day orientation workshop prior to the conference on the pilot program of LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI). Participants representing 30 of the 40 projects participating in the pilot attended. Additional projects are still being considered: leed-ci@usgbc.org

Over 170 students and young professionals gathered at the conference in a Forum for Young Professionals in Green Building. Participants discussed means of collaboration among young members of the green building movement as well as between first and second generation of green building professionals. emerginggreenbuilders@aol.com

Planning for next year’s conference is underway – a call for papers will be released this month. Attendance projections range from 6000-10000 participants. It’s set to take place November 12-14 at the Lawrence Conference Center – the nation’s first green convention center – in Pittsburgh.

The USGBC, established in 1993, has grown 600% in the last three years to 2000 members. There are 13 chapters and another 17 are expected by this spring.

Presentation materials, including PowerPoint files, abstracts and papers are at: www.usgbc.org/exposchedule.asp for a small fee for people who did not attend (free for attendees). Contact Terri Stewart

Copies of “The Austin Papers: Best of the 2002 International Green Building Conference,” a compilation of 15 papers submitted for the conference are available from www.buildinggreen.com for $25.

FROM Environmental Building News, December 2002, a SustainableBusiness.com Content Partner.

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