GreenBuild Conference Opens in Toronto
A report from my first day attending workshops and walking the trade-show floor
The GreenBuild conference in Toronto, Ontario, opened its gates on October 5, 2011. This is the first time that the U.S. Green Building Council has held its annual conference outside of the United States.
The keynote speech was provided by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, a longtime promoter of the benefits of globalization. His usual “capitalism is good for the planet” message has been tempered lately by some sensible opinions on the need for governments to impose carbon taxes on fossil fuels, and his speech was well received by the crowd. The event, held in a hockey arena decorated by a 20 foot by 40 foot custom-made neon sign blinking “Next” — USGBC’s chosen theme for this year’s conference — was conducted like a pep rally. There were several opportunities for green building promoters to engage in self-congratulation. Friedman, a quick study, understood the mood and did his part, repeatedly praising those who construct green buildings.
After Friedman spoke, he joined an on-stage panel discussion with Cokie Roberts of NPR, former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, and Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health, a true hero. Unfortunately, Dr. Farmer had few opportunities to share stories of his work in Haiti, in spite of valiant attempts by Cokie Roberts to balance a conversation that in many ways was dominated by Friedman's mostly optimistic world view.
This morning I attended a presentation on the PassivhausA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. standard. The two American presenters, Bronwyn Barry and Prudence Ferreira, managed to get through their explanations of how the standard works in the U.S. without once mentioning the PHI/PHIUS divorce. The closest that Barry came to the topic was when she explained that “You can have your building certified. These certifications are now changing.”
The trade show floor has a few interesting products, including a new type of hemp insulation manufactured in Quebec. I'll be providing more information on new products in upcoming blogs. For now, check out these photos I took today — and stay tuned for more details.
- Martin Holladay
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