Live from GreenBuild – Day 1 with Chris By: greening homes

November 20, 2013
Announcements, Green Materials, Site Stories

Chris Phillips, Greening Homes’ President, is attending this year’s GreenBuild conference, in Philadelphia.  This is the first of his daily blogs from the event.

This is my second GreenBuild conference and expo after having attended the event in Toronto in 2011.  The conference is presented by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) each year.  This year represents the launch of USGBC’s LEED Version 4.  This is significant, as it likely hints at what direction the USGBC’s Canadian counterpart, the CaGBC, may be going in the near future.  Whatever criticisms one may have about the LEED programme, it remains the most recognized green building certification system in North America and its new direction may have repercussions within the general building industry.  GreenBuild is also the launch pad for pretty much every new and exciting green building product in North America.  I’m here to see what’s coming on all fronts.

I’m attending education sessions throughout the week, with each day starting at 8am and finishing at 5:30pm.  Some highlights:

GreenBuild - Greening Homes - Day 1 - 3

Today’s events

Materials and Human Health Summit and education sessions all day.

Today was aimed at product manufacturers and designers.  The big shift in LEED Version 4 is a newfound emphasis on materials and health impacts.  LEED will soon provide points for materials that have undergone a life cycle analysis (LCA) or have an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).  The USGBC wants to make “green building” a health issue.  This is gratifying!  I’ve been touting healthy building as green building for years while the industry has been focused mainly on energy conservation.

Education sessions today were focused on the LCA and EPD development process.  How do you get started?  What are the challenges?  Who’s involved?

GreenBuild - Greening Homes - Day 1 - 1

Some thoughts and observations

The big concern today was product ingredient transparency in LCAs and EPDs, what affect this could have on trade secrets and proprietary information, and how the process could be misused in a competitive environment.

The development of and LCA or EPD is hugely time intensive and extremely costly.  If LEED only provides points for products that have these, what happens to the smaller, and often more cutting edge, manufacturers?

The Materials and Human Health Summit was wholly sponsored by…BASF, makers of Walltite ECO spray foam.  Wow.  Anyone see CBC’s Market Watch a couple of week’s ago?

Here are some numbers from today: 3.4% of all U.S. chemicals go into construction materials.  As does 90% of all formaldehyde and 75% of all PVC that is produced in the United States.


I spent my lunch chatting with Carl Grimes, author of “Starting Points for a Healthy Habitat” and former IAQ America President.  We swapped stories about our experiences with clients who have extreme multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS).  Carl knew all about Building Biology, in which I’ve undergone training.  Not many people do.  I was impressed!

GreenBuild - Greening Homes - Day 1 - 4

Here and there

Lots of food carts out at 7:30am in the morning!  I get my custom made egg and cheese breakfast sandwich on a Hoagie for $2.25, tax included.

Philadelphia, the birthplace of America, is a historical architectural gem.  Looks just like Paris in parts, on purpose…architecture mimicking the politics of the Revolution.

Unsweetened iced tea.  That’s the beverage of choice here for lunch.

Walking through downtown Philadelphia to get to/from my hotel each day and it seems the city is predominately African American.  The attendees at GreenBuild are almost exclusively white.  Conferences have a way of immersing you for a day in an alternate reality.  Here, the difference in population between outside the conference and within makes this alternate reality even more palpable.

I have yet to speak to anyone here who doesn’t mention Rob Ford as soon as they find out I’m from Toronto.

Only paper cups and plates for both morning and afternoon coffee breaks?  Really?  I can count the number of reusable mugs among the hundreds in attendance on one hand!

Quote of the Day

“BASF isn’t “big chemical”, we’re a collection of experts!”

Michael, BASF spokesman, during his introduction to an education session for the Materials and Health Summit.