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The GHB Interview: Kim Heaver, VP of Conferences & Events, U.S. Green Building Council

The future of the green building movement

Green Home Builder: Tell me about the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo. What is the purpose?

Kim Heaver: Greenbuild is the convener for everyone in the sustainability ecosystem. ?The conference was launched in 2002 and is the place where leaders developing the next generation of sustainability solutions gather to create a better future for everyone on the planet. Greenbuild is the go-to experience for designers, architects, engineers, teachers, manufacturers, resilience officers, government officials and more who are passionate about green building and sustainability. 

Each year, Greenbuild attracts thousands of attendees. When you attend Greenbuild, you get access to the expo hall, thought-provoking summits and keynote speakers, inspiring education sessions that are peer reviewed and curated by the market, exclusive tours of local green building leadership and networking opportunities all designed to help shape the future of green building. Along with our partners at Informa, we design the conference taking into account stakeholder feedback, optimal learning environments and topics that offer real world case studies and spark dialog.

GHB: What can attendees expect from this year’s Greenbuild?

KH: We strive for a balance of in-depth technical knowledge sharing, workshops with actionable takeaways and inspirational, thoughtful leadership. The intersection of all of these helps keep Greenbuild fresh each year and the attendees walking away with a renewed passion for their everyday work.

The 2022 Greenbuild will feature two Virtual Summits focused on Sustainable Infrastructure and Healthy Materials in October which will lead up to the in-person event in San Francisco, November 1-3 hosted at the LEED Platinum Moscone Center. We are excited to be celebrating our 20th anniversary of gathering in person. Greenbuild has a history of showcasing incredible speakers and this year is no different. Our main stage will feature Dr. Jean Rogers and Jane Fonda with more exciting announcements to come. 

Attendees can dig into technical content with over 90 sessions and workshops, a robust tradeshow floor featuring cutting-edge products, various networking opportunities and the chance to meet key industry contacts. 

There are myriad opportunities to connect with peers outside of the proverbial classroom with the chance to explore the unique green buildings around San Francisco and to reunite and celebrate with old and new friends at the special events each evening. 

Our award-winning event sustainability plan will be deployed in full effect made possible by extensive volunteer participation and will feature hands-on activations to support the local community. 

GHB: What were some challenges in having such a large scale event amidst the pandemic, and how has Greenbuild overcome these obstacles?

KH: Greenbuild is committed to creating an event where our community, partners, staff and local workforce can have an enjoyable and successful experience, conducting business effectively in safety and comfort.

In order to make Greenbuild a welcoming space for all, show organizer and USGBC Partner, Informa, has developed a detailed set of enhanced measures to provide the highest levels of hygiene and safety at its events, providing everyone with the reassurance and confidence that they are participating in a safe and controlled environment. 

As part of those efforts, the event offers non-contact registration, enhanced cleaning and session rooms with multiple seating accommodations – some with standing options so that you can choose the space that makes you feel most comfortable to learn and connect. 

GHB: Why is it important for industry professionals to attend these events?

KH: Greenbuild is where inspiration ignites, relationships grow, knowledge transfers and leaders develop the next generation of ideas. We pride ourselves in being able to provide an energizing experience where attendees can stay on the bleeding edge of the industry, maintain credentials with continuing education credits, discover new products and mingle with like-minded individuals all working toward the same goal – a more sustainable future for all. 

GHB: How has the green building industry changed over the course of the pandemic?

KH: Human health has been a longstanding value of green buildings, especially for LEED-certified buildings. There’s been a lot of research on how LEED buildings have a positive impact on the health, well-being and productivity of occupants. A 2018 USGBC survey shows employees who work in LEED-certified buildings are happier, healthier and more productive than employees in conventional and non-LEED buildings.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a bigger spotlight on our indoor spaces, and people are more aware of the indoor air they breathe. As a result, building owners and managers are responding by paying more attention to how spaces affect the health and wellbeing of occupants. To further assist building teams as the pandemic continues and we continue to navigate the return to the office, USGBC has introduced LEED Safety First guidance to further address critical building operations and planning across cities and communities. With third-party certifications like LEED, projects put community health needs as a central focus, shifting from single acts to a holistic approach for the promotion of mental and physical health.

GHB: Where do you see the future of green building?

KH: We are excited about where the green building movement is going as more companies, organizations and governments are looking to adopt tools and policies that support the decarbonization of buildings. 

USGBC has evolved the LEED rating system over the years to meet the demands of the marketplace, capitalizing on new technologies and ideas. We are in the midst of creating the next version of LEED with the help of our volunteers and members. 

The way forward will include a phased approach, and in June 2022, we launched a set of 6 principles to help guide us. The next version of LEED will be a step in the process that supports the built environment’s alignment with the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement and addresses critical imperatives including equity, health, biodiversity and resilience.

GHB: What are some green building trends that are prominent in the industry right now?

KH: The recent World Green Building Trends report released last fall, shows that green building continues to remain a global priority, driven by extreme events and despite rising concerns like the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the green building movement continues to grow, industry professionals cite various factors that are driving commitments to green building, including both social and financial reasons. Some of the top reasons are lowering operating costs, lowering carbon emissions, reducing energy and water consumption, market demand, building healthier buildings and living up to internal corporate commitments. 

Because of higher energy and utility costs, many owners and operators have also started shifting their focus on strategies to specifically address reducing energy consumption as well as reducing the carbon footprint of building projects.

GHB: Anything else we did not go over that you’d like to touch on?

KH: Greenbuild is the largest annual event for green building and sustainability leaders, and we are looking forward to seeing the community gather in person. While the conference is owned and run by Informa Connect, U.S. Green Building Council is a close partner and supports the event with education sessions, keynote speakers and other programming. We are excited to unveil more details about the event in the coming weeks and hope to see everyone in San Francisco later this year.