For the past 10 years the people at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and the USGBC have been consolidating a partnership that draws all sectors of the building industry to Syracuse: the Green Building Conference. Its origins go back to the aptly named Richard Greene, who at the time was a graduate student at ESF. He now works as a codes enforcement officer for the villages of Manlius and Fayetteville.
Sponsored by the department of Sustainable Construction Management and Engineering, Greene got the opportunity to travel to Austin, Texas, for the first annual USGBC International Conference and Exposition in 2002. This experience inspired him to propose the idea to the department back at ESF.
“The presentations in the conference were amazing. I was impressed that such a program could draw 4,000 attendees,” Greene remembers. “I said, ‘There’s no reason why SUNY-ESF could not have a conference with some of these presentations.’”
Greene’s department supported his idea and the wheels started turning to produce the first Green Building Conference. Because it started as an ESF event, it was originally held at the Alumni Lounge in Marshall Hall; however, growth forced a move fairly quickly.
“By the third year we were tripping over each other,” Greene says. Not only did the number of attendees increase, but also the number of companies interested in showcasing their green building products and services. The conference has since moved to the Pirro Convention Center, 800 S. State St., which has larger spaces to host all the activities. It returns March 29 and 30.
“We are really building sustainable momentum toward the built environment and I think that’s really exciting,” says Tracie Hall, executive director of the New York Upstate Chapter of the USGBC, and member of the advisory committee for the Green Building Conference. “We’re not just getting architects and engineers and contractors any more. We’re getting bankers, attorneys, insurance agents, real estate agents, students: people that really see value and benefit in better understanding what LEED is all about and what a green building is and what it isn’t.”
To continue attracting a more diverse audience, this will be the first year that the conference will not offer a LEED training workshop. In the past the conference itself was limited to one day while the other day was dedicated to the practical training offered by the USGBC.
There are two reasons for the change. First, Hall believes that by offering two full days of discussion, more people from a greater diversity of fields will participate and it will offer more opportunities for networking. Also, she says that having both the training and the conference in the past caused a lot of confusion.
“People would come thinking they could participate in both and they would only have registered for the conference,” Hall says. “They would show up to participate in the LEED workshop and, of course, we couldn’t let them in without having paid the registration. It just wouldn’t be fair.”
Additionally, in the last decade, these trainings have become more prevalent locally, so the need to do it during the conference is not that pressing anymore. So this year the focus will be on education; giving attendees the opportunity to immerse in their field of interest using green building principles. For the LEED-accredited professionals, this will also be a great opportunity to maintain the validity of their credentials by completing the continuing education credits required by the USGBC, Hall says.
In the past, the courses offered during the conference were somewhat entry-level. Now, because there are two full days for sessions, the advisory committee is elevating some of the courses to master level. “We still have entry-level courses as well to attract new people to the conference,” Hall notes. “But we’ve really elevated the technical aspect of the conference to incorporate new ideas and sustainable practices that are being taught to architects and engineers even if they’ve been involved in green building for a while.”
Furthermore, to celebrate the 10th anniversary and the continuous growth of the event, it will also get a new name. “This year we’re calling it the New York State Green Building Conference,” says Diane Brandli, interior designer, LEED-accredited professional and a member of the conference’s advisory committee. “We’re trying to let people understand that we’re about green building all over New York state, it’s not just Central New York.”
What will stay the same is the Green Advocate of the Year Award,
presented since 2006. “We like to recognize people who have taken a real
leadership position and that really provided a great deal of
inspiration and energy to green building,”
Brandli says. “There’s a lot of them out there, so it’s a tough choice.”
Greene never thought that his first idea for a conference at ESF
could get this large and important. Now, 10 years later, the hopes of
the advisory committee continue to evolve. Hall even strives for a
partnership with the two other chapters of the USGBC in New York—in
Manhattan and Long Island—to really make this the statewide event
in green building. “It’s not a trend, it’s not a movement, it’s beyond
that,” Hall says. “It’s a way of living.”
The conference begins at 7:15 a.m. each day with breakfast and registration and features breakout sessions throughout each of its two days. Fees range from $35 for students to $310 for professionals. For more information, visit esf.edu/greenbuilding.