by Joel Ann Todd
The best part of Greenbuild is seeing old friends and meeting people who will become new friends. Throughout the week, there were lots of hugs from people I’ve worked with for the past 25 years on green building – my heroes, my mentors, the people who have shaped this work. And, there were hugs with a young woman who is sustainability manager for her company and wants to learn everything about what to do – including HPDs — and how to do it so she can lead the effort – she is the future. And a researcher who is trying to help us understand the geographic aspects of health impacts of building materials – does where you live determine your health and what is the role of building materials? I talked to manufacturers who want to do the right thing – want to get rid of questionable ingredients in their products – they are just trying to negotiate this new world of reporting and product improvement. There were people who are developing tools to help projects figure all of this out – how to use new information to create a truly sustainable company, how to use new information.
There was new research – supporting what we have suspected for a long time – indoor air quality affects performance of the people in a building. Thanks to Jack Spengler, John Allen, and colleagues (to read the study, go to http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/15-10037/#tab1) and thanks to friend Vivian Loftness for helping me understand the details. Joe Romm did a great job of highlighting this study in the closing plenary (see his explanation at http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/10/26/3714853/carbon-dioxide-impair-brain/). He also was a model of clear explanation of technical issues, including his brilliant discussion of climate change (can’t wait to read his new book on the subject).
I heard lots of support for the concept of “transparency” and “disclosure” – along with a frustration over how to use information that feels like a database, not a tool, and legitimate concerns from manufacturers about misuse of this information. That certainly helps me set my agenda for the next few months! HPDC and our members will be developing “how to guides” for manufacturers and project teams, and other resources to ensure that our reporting tools is as effective and useable as possible.
I loved Roger Platt’s quote – “the future is now, it’s just not well distributed.” And Joe Romm’s definition of politics – “poly” is many and “tics” are small, blood sucking insects (sorry, I live in the DC area and that was just too good to pass up..!) Joe also said that “stories sell, numbers numb” – let’s all take that to heart as we promote this important work
This was my first year in a booth at Greenbuild and it was great – I gained so much insight into the various perspectives of projects, manufacturers and others on the HPD and what we are trying to do. I learned that we have a lot of education to do, that we have to make sure manufacturers have resources they need to create HPDs, and that project teams need to understand what the heck an HPD is and isn’t. This booth was for a project that is intended to expand the availability of healthier materials for affordable housing – and this idea really resonated with people who stopped to talk.
For me, Greenbuild is always about the people – I love the energy, the enthusiasm. The new products that companies believe in. We are all part of this movement to make our world a better place. I always leave Greenbuild inspired to work with so many smart, dedicated people to make it happen. In a week that was in the shadow of terrible events in Paris and then Mali, to name the most prominent, Greenbuild was hope and joy – and love – love for one another, love for our planet, love for everyone who inhabits it with us. We have a lot of work to do – let’s get on with it!