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Living Future 2011: Delicious

The Mac Lovers among us must have loved Majora Carter's declaration in her keynote that the “USGBC is PC, Living Future is Apple.”  Not sure I agree with the exact analogy but I get what she means. Regrettably I Doc2 didn’t get to the Cascadia Green Building Council’s Living Future Conference this year, but I learned this pearl second hand from Alistair Jackson, my colleague at O’Brien & Company. Alistair and Kelly Kirkland, also of O’Brien & Company did attend, and when asked to share their highlights came up with more than I can reasonably cover in a single blog…so I will summarize:

Impact: Majora Carter’s keynote focused on local strategies that solve big problems and pay back multiple times.  Her examples included working with the most expensive citizens in our community (the generationally impoverished and veterans of war) – and provide them with the skills to do environmental restoration, climate change adaption and energy retrofit work.  This “conversion” would reduce entitlement budgets, reduce municipal operating budgets and foster self-respect in these generally marginalized populations.  For planners, this amounts to risk reduction. She called it “Hometown Security” rather than Homeland Security. 

In the same vein, Kelly was encouraged by the increasing value place on the contribution construction trades can make to green building. Outside of the formal sessions, she “heard more than ever before about green building training for the construction trades. Some of this training is happening on the job site of projects in progress, and one project even set aside time to build a ‘practice’ building to help trades people learn by doing—so they could do better when it came time to build the real project.”

Connections: In her keynote, Margaret Wheatley encouraged the audience to focus not on “critical mass” but on “critical connections” with others. At most conferences that might seem daunting, but Kelly “found most attendees of LF11 fully present and engaged in looking for ways to advance green building. I met people building the most progressive Living Buildings on the planet, people engaging kids to improve their community, and people with a genuine passion for their work.” Before Kelly even arrived on site, she met presenter Jane Turville on the Amtrak bus ride up to (Vancouver, BC) Canada. Jane is the writer/director/producer of “The Greenest Building” an inspiring case for green renovations of existing (especially historic) buildings, with case studies from around the US. Check out the film’s web site to see some clips: http://www.thegreenestbuildingmovie.com.

The issue of connection was implicit in a presentation on “trust-based” contractual arrangements offered by Turner Construction. Apparently not all of the designers in the room were comfortable with the idea based on their comments, but Alistair appreciated Tony Toppenberg’s (Tony is a Cost Estimator at Turner) discussion of an integrated approach in which the three key parties  (owner, architect, and the builder) share the risk and reward of delivering (or failing to deliver) on project goals.   (More on this subject in a future blog!)

LF2011Image Re-Imagination:  In addition to the novel idea of trust-based contracts (!) Jason Twill (Senior Project Manager for Sustainability) of Vulcan Real Estate discussed how the Living Building Standard forces one to rethink both the ideal building design process and business model for multi-family buildings. In Seattle, at least, it turns out that 4-5 story mid-rise is the maximum for truly achieving Living Building.   While on-site energy is inevitably one of the limits to growth, it turns out that Net Zero water is the greater constraint.  Seattle-based research shows that relying on precipitation alone won’t get you to net zero water (even in Seattle!). That means relying on recycling grey and black water to some degree.  Working outward from this “natural” building constraint, one would need to review thinking about design (integrating the process) regulations (permitting water recycling), economics (valuing water recycling), leasing (moving to gross leases to allow capture of performance savings), and marketing (including building performance transparency and education). Only this, Jason?

For their “15 minutes of Brilliance” presentation, students from Jasper High School read their inspiring, opinion essays about the state of education.  Kelly’s favorite line: “education should be experimental (read experiential) with real consequences.”  Education, no matter the age of the learner, needs to do a better job of making connections between the way we behave and the consequences or impact of that behavior.  It seems obvious from the takeaways shared by Alistair and Kelly, that Living Future did a good job modeling that.

AlistairJackson-web KellyKirkland-web Alistair Jackson, LEED AP for Homes, CSBA is Principal and part owner of O’Brien & Company, and is responsible for the company’s residential technical services team (including the LEED for Homes providership). Kelly, LEED AP for O+M, CSBA is Project Associate for O’Brien & Company and the firm’s marketing and educational services coordinator. She presented at Living Future 2011, on Washington Green Schools, and has produced several green building curricula for construction trades.

Did you enjoy this article?  You might also like these Building Capacity Blog articles: 
Living Building Challenge: Bertschi School’s New Science Wing
Living Building Results from a Living Vision
Envisioning a Net-Zero Water Future
Living Future: Life in the Solution

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