Only Green is Growing: Green Build 2009

While real estate and the building material segments remain bleak, green building is thriving with vitality and diversity.

The International Green Build Conference took place in Phoenix, Arizona last week, with 1200 exhibitors and 25000 attendees. The show has grown to be among the biggest conferences. Graced by Al Gore, Sheryl Crow and other public figures, Green Build also had ample celebrity presence.

Not just for wild-eyed, shaggy-headed tree huggers, Fortune 100 companies have taken permanent places. Whether exhibitors were truly sustainable, or just working hard to look that way, it's becoming clear that "green building" will not be a differentiator, but a requirement within the next few years.

The show drew a diverse crowd, from the ruddy-faced battalions of sales reps at Johnson Controls, to their younger counterparts with innovative niche specialty products (with natural hair and bearded chins). Also present were the hosts of government agencies and associations supporting commerce, labor and trade. College students and young professionals comprised a significant segment of the gathering.

Notwithstanding the sluggish economy, attendees and exhibitors were eager to share and to learn. Challenges of the all-too-slow emergence of sustainable and renewable business have given green business veterans the patience of the ages.

I was fortunate to meet a great number of important participants, more evidence that the “real deal” is thriving on green. Some of the meetings I had:

The creative people of Rubicon Seven, led by Principal J. Tedrowe Bonner, who boast achievements such as raising a $180 million fund to develop land use projects that serve the “triple bottom line” (people, planet, profit).

Also at Rubicon Seven’s booth, the architects of 7group, including Bill Reed, Bohn Boecker, and Marcus Sheffer, signed my copy of their new book: "The Integrative Design Guide To Green Building," an authoritative text for the field, which redefines the practice of sustainable architectural design.

Featured on the cover is their recently completed project, the new home of the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems. The Executive Director of Syracuse CoE, Ed Bogucz, shared his vision for the program with me: fostering the convergence of academic study and business commercialization. We discussed Torque’s notion of brand talent, and how the ‘brand tribe’ can determine the competitive advantage of a business and shapes its value proposition. Intrigued, Ed invited me to their private reception that evening.

At the reception, S. Richard Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair US Green Building Council (also a board member of the Syracuse CoE) spoke to the attending guests, and recognized accomplishments of the Center and the breathless success of the Green Build show.

Orchestrating behind the scenes of all this was Jan McAdams of The McAdams Group. Jan has been at the forefront of helping sustainable business raise grant, loan and donated money for 30 years, and knows all the public, private and governmental players of substance.

In addition to supporting all of the above individuals, Jan was at Green Build in collaboration with Jenni Peterman, President and CEO of Global Green Grants and Consulting, currently involved in  construction of a series of six LEED certified health care facilities in Texas and other Southwest markets.

I've come to know Jan as she is also advising Unique Solar Solutions, a technology company with a business model for redefining the ROI of solar thermal systems. As a member of the founding team, I am serving as Chief Marketing Officer.

Yes, the pace of construction is still slow. But big business, small business and real business all seem to see their future in green building. As Torque helps launch businesses and products into the space, we expect more strong signs of life in the category!