Friday, July 29, 2005

A Vision of Future Green Building: RSC06

Like many others committed to environmentally responsible building, I believe the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has done a remarkable job of promoting green building in the U.S. Over 200 million square feet of buildings have been certified, are registered, or are in the certification process using the USGBC's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Enviromental Design) building assessment tools. With a relatively small staff augmented by hundreds of volunteer professionals who serve on committees that are overseeing the evolution of existing standards and the development of new standards, the USGBC has had enormous impact in just a short period of time. At present there are LEED variants for new construction (LEED-NC), existing buildings (LEED-EB), core and commercial interiors (LEED-CI). LEED for core and shell (LEED-CS) is undergoing pilot testing by 75 project teams. LEED for homes (LEED-H) is under development as is LEED for neighborhood development (LEED-ND). See for more information.

In spite of the success of the USGBC and the LEED suite of standards, the green building movement is at risk for several reasons. First and foremost is the lack of a vision of future green buildings. The LEED standards are building assessment tools, not design guides, that is, they score how well the project team approached the green building requirements in LEED, but they only indirectly assist in green building design. The LEED standards certainly hint at the attributes of a green building per USGBC doctrine, but they provide little in the way of defining what exactly comprises a green building, either today or in the future. Essential green building attributes such as integration with natural systems, deconstructability, closed materials loops, hyper-efficient buildings, and many other key qualities are not covered to any significant depth. Additionally, due to the proliferation of LEED standards, the USGBC has had its hands full dealing with developing and maintaining the current suite, with the result that attention to a vision of future green buildings has been minimal. This vision is a critical need, however, because without it, like any other endeavor, the odds of failure increase dramatically.

As a consequence of these shortcomings, the Powell Center for Construction & Environment at the University of Florida is organizing Rethinking Sustainable Construction 2006 (RSC06), an international conference to address the future of green building. RSC06 will be held in September 2006 in Sarasota, Florida and will focus on the cutting edge and beyond for high performance green buildings and assist in the development of a roadmap for designing and producing future high performance facilities. When I say 'future', I am referring to the time frame 10 to 50 years from the present. As noted above, with all the excellent work being done by the USGBC to promote green building in the U.S., there is a significant vacuum when it comes to a future vision for high performance buildings. The same holds true in many other countries with green building strategies. RSC06 is being designed specifically to remedy this situation. We anticipate a collaboration of designers, developers, builders, manufacturers, primary materials suppliers, policymakers, and researchers to create a sorely needed vision of the future. The RSC06 website can be found at It will be a relatively small conference with the emphasis being on interaction and the development of this roadmap. We look forward to your participation in this groundbreaking event!

As an aside, the Powell Center organized the First International Conference on Sustainable Construction, held in Tampa, Florida in November 1994. We have been engaged in green building activities since 1990, with materials cycles, building deconstruction, materials recycling, and component reuse being our main areas of interest. Currently we are working on optimizing hydrologic cycles for green buildings, developing economic and financial models for high performance buildings, and developing decision systems for indoor environmental quality (IEQ) strategies. You can find our website at