After missing GreenBuild 2011 in Toronto, I was excited to be back this year in San Francisco, a city I visit so frequently that I consider it my second home. GreenBuild is a big conference, with attendence in the range of 30,000, down slightly from a few years ago, but still very impressive. It was held in the Moscone Center, well located in downtown San Francisco.
Even though the Moscone Center has three separate buildings, the amount of walking is comparable to the monster halls in Las Vegas, Orlando, and Chicago, and when the weather is nice, it provides an opportunity to get outside.
A very active passive house in the exhibit hall
Conferences are sometimes maddeningly similar: a big exhibit hall with too many booths and endless one-hour overview seminars.
I didn’t see too many new things in the exhibit hall. (See Alex Wilson’s post to learn about new and exciting products.) One corner of the hall was populated by a row of Passivhaus product suppliers — interesting, since the movement is still quite small.
It was nice to see super-high performance ERVs and flashing systems becoming more available here, although I rarely see any opportunities to incorporate these in my work as a consultant. As I pointed out in my last post, I struggle to make my client’s build buildings only slightly less crappy than they would otherwise. Being involved with true high-performance buildings is still a dream for me.
Education still lacking
As is often the case, the educational component was a mixed bag. I made the mistake of going to several sessions with interesting content, but, unfortunately, most of the speakers were not very engaging.
Where the speakers were good, they lacked enough time for any depth of content. In my opinion, 15 to 20 minutes per person barely leaves time to introduce a subject. GreenBuild education tends to be a combination of motivational talks, high-level introductions, and a few self-serving sales pitches. I believe the conference would be better served by adding one- to two-hour in-depth sessions with single, excellent, speakers providing advanced instruction. I know that there were some excellent sessions, but apparently I missed most of them this year.
While the facilities were nice, they conference room ceilings were frighteningly tall, creating a cavernous feeling. Some rooms were set up with a central elevated runway, video monitors, and high-end lighting. This setup was a nice change from the typical dais-at-the-end-of-the-room arrangement, but it seemed a little forced, and I couldn’t help thinking about how much all the equipment cost.
Networking is where it’s at
Although I was disappointed with the education and the exhibit hall, as always, GreenBuild does offer excellent networking opportunities. I reconnected with old friends and associates, met new people, and made some good connections for future opportunities.
As always, some people will love it and be inspired, especially those who have not been before. Some people will be lucky and pick sessions that are interesting and engaging.
A few (or many) like me will be disappointed with most of what they see and long for more depth.