Earlier this month, the U.S. Green Building Council (“USGBC”) held its annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo.  For the first time in the ten year history of the event, the USGBC ventured outside of the borders of the United States in selecting its venue: Toronto, Canada.  By choosing an international destination, the U.S. Green Building Council sacrificed revenue and attendance in an effort to make a statement regarding the growing interest and adoption of LEED worldwide.  With the rising number of international company members within the U.S. Green Building Council and speculation surrounding the introduction of a more internationally-friendly version of the LEED rating systems, Greenbuild Toronto seemed an appropriate destination.

If you did not get an opportunity to renew your passport in time to attend Greenbuild this year, here are some of the highlights:

  • The USGBC announced a partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) for the Demand Response Partnership Program (DR Partnership Program), which is aimed at educating, promoting and driving participation in demand response programs in commercial buildings. USGBC & EDF will work with selected utilities, solution providers and sponsors on this initiative.
  • LEED 2012 just completed its second public comment period and is anticipated to launch at Greenbuild 2012.
  • The USGBC’s Center for Green Schools launched its Green Schools Fellowship, which places sustainability officers in public schools around the nation for three year terms.

While the majority of the programs, products, and presentations at Greenbuild were charged with energy and optimism surrounding the latest innovations and trends in green building, one noteworthy revelation conveyed a more ominous message: consumer demand for green buildings may be waning.  A recent report entitled “Dollars and Sense,” unveiled by CBRE at Greenbuild, suggests that support for green buildings may be on the decline.  The report includes a survey of owners and occupants of 147 green buildings regarding their opinion on the importance of being in a green building.  While the performance of the buildings included in the survey showed improvement (higher Energy Star scores and lower energy costs), the report indicates a decline in the importance occupants, owners and businesses place on being in a green building.  The report should be available soon on the CBRE website. 

On a more positive note, for the second consecutive year, the Greenbuild Legal Forum became the place for attorneys to brush up on the latest issues in green building law.  The fact that attorneys have established our own niche within Greenbuild is a significant accomplishment in itself.  It is indicative of the recognition within the green building industry that green buildings present unique risks and attorneys can help.

This year, the forum occupied a full half day on the program schedule.  It was comprised of a variety of panels and attorneys offering remarks on topics ranging from litigation and green construction contracts to insurance products and greenwashing.  Whiteford, Taylor & Preston’s Ed Lee was part of this year’s forum and offered a thoughtful presentation on the issues surrounding the construction surety’s role in green building projects.  

Next year, the USGBC takes its international conference and expo to the west coast.  Scheduled for November 14-16, 2012, Greenbuild San Francisco aims to build upon the success of the past ten conferences.  San Francisco, regarded by many as one of America’s leaders in green building policies and practices, will undoubtedly serve as an appropriate location for 2012.  If you were not able to make it to Toronto this year, we hope to see you in San Francisco next year.