A Positive Trend is Unfolding in the Building Industry

Since we gathered at the Getting to Zero National Forum with NASEO in Denver, Colo., we’ve been busy synthezing the outcomes of this first-of-its-kind event.  We had a sold-out crowd and received tremendous feedback on the depth and technical content of the sessions and the event overall.The forum consisted of a dozen sessions with more than 40 presenters (agenda and presentations available here). We hosted two outstanding keynotes.  Denis Hayes provided the opening keynote, examining the global challenges to achieving a sustainable built environment in the midst of rapid urbanization and population growth in developing nations.  He shared his experience with the development of the Living Building Challenge-seeking Bullitt Center in Seattle and offered it as a model for sustainable commercial development.  Ed Mazria delivered the closing keynote, inspiring the group and putting our current environmental challenges in the context of a more positive outlook for global fossil fuel energy use.  He described the success of the 2030 Challenge and the upcoming release of the 2030 Palette, providing toolsets for 2030 districts. During the closing session of the Forum, we gathered the following observations from participants:
•    Zero Net Energy buildings do not have to cost more
•    We need to shift the discussion from cost to value
•    We recognize the value of an aspirational goal, such as 2030 which inspired California
•    The cache of ZNE is real; it is a tipping point
•    EcoDistricts are very inspiring, and we need to consider scale jumping
•    O & M is critical; Prototypes are critical
•    What we need next is a strategy for the next level of how to monitor these buildings
•    Individuals influence
•    The grid is our friend; let’s not alienate the utility we need to bring along as a partner on this pathway
•    Stretch codes are the opportunity to ratchet up the built environment
•    Government needs to engage and demonstrate but also get out of the way and let innovation thrive
•    State and local government is where it is going to happen
•    It’s exciting to get together with so many experts, next step: build collaboratives
•    Developer Gary Christiansen was beginning to scale back his efforts; after participating in the Forum he now feels the ZNE effort can continue and is very achievablePerhaps the most compelling outcome from the Forum was illuminated in the closing session.  The dialog is transitioning from discussion of net-zero energy buildings to one of net-positive buildings.  Our team at NBI is excited by this trend and believes it signals a Positive future for the built environment.  Stay tuned for more on that.  In the months ahead we will share additional outcomes from the Forum, beginning with a webinar on January 15 at 10 a.m. (Pacific time) to coincide with release of our Getting to Zero 2013 Update report.  Please register to join us.