Blog Post

Sustainable Design Leaders Find Comradery at Greenbuild

The SDL Show-and-Tell session is where Greenbuild becomes more personal, more intimate, less business-to-business, and more community-centric.

Five-minute presentations are a fun way to share a lot of high-impact information in a short time

Photo: BuildingGreen
The Greenbuild International Conference and Expo is the world’s largest conference and expo centered around sustainable design. Greenbuild is unparalleled in its robust educational and networking opportunities, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. Over the past couple of years, I’ve especially enjoyed a special evening of respite, inspiration, and a profound sense of comradery from a small (but growing) network of sustainable design leaders such as myself.

What will you bring to show-and-tell?

Every Greenbuild for one evening, the Sustainable Design Leaders (SDL) peer network gathers for a series of five-minute “Show-and-Tell” presentations. I always look forward to this opportunity to engage with a focused network of a few dozen peers who are pushing the limits in their own practices.

The SDL peer network is a space where new information and ideas can be exchanged, and where individuals can speak candidly about the challenges of realizing sustainable design leadership in firms. The SDL Show-and-Tell session is where Greenbuild becomes more personal, more intimate, less business-to-business, and more community-centric.

Get the five-minute version of a Greenbuild session

Taking full advantage of Greenbuild, I managed to squeeze in 16 education sessions over four days. By comparison, at the SDL Show-and-Tell, we touched on 16 presentations in under 90 minutes! It is the perfect antidote to the conundrum of conference session conflicts.

Also, having the SDL Show-and-Tell the evening before the Opening Plenary afforded me the opportunity to reconsider my schedule to get the most out of Greenbuild: I could attend a specific session that had been previewed at the SDL Show-and-Tell for a more in-depth presentation of the technical content, or I could opt for a different session and expand my conference experience. You might think of the SDL Show-and-Tell as a form of Greenbuild speed dating.


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Leading lights

The firms that presented at this years’ Show-and-Tell are a testament to the breadth of the SDL network.

As one might anticipate, attendees were acquainted with some of the emerging research and innovations coming out of large international design firms such as SOM, HKS, and HGA; but the floor was also yielded to leaders from mid-sized firms such as Moody Nolan, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, FXCollaborative and others that are making impressive progress in their respective markets across the country and beyond.

A growing Sustainable Design Leaders network

The SDL Show-and-Tell is just one of the many benefits of participating in the SDL peer network. Members also receive year-round benefits and support, including online discussion forums, monthly webinars, custom research, and other networking events. Originally founded by Meredith Elbaum and Nellie Reid, the group has grown organically over the past decade into a robust network of practice leaders from firms of various sizes and locales.

Inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of the Sustainable Design Leaders, sustainability champions from other segments of the building industry are now forming their own peer networks. At Greenbuild, BuildingGreen facilitated the kick-off of a Sustainable Construction Leaders peer network. Applications are now available through BuildingGreen’s website. Peer networks are also getting started for Sustainability Consultants and Sustainable Design Leaders from smaller firms (50 employees or fewer).

Serving as a sustainable design leader comes with both unique challenges and opportunities. I appreciate BuildingGreen’s work supporting and facilitating these peer networks. No where else do I find as many opportunities to teach and to learn, to advise and to get support. These  peer networks thrive on such a give-and-take within a robust, diverse network of passionate leaders who convene regularly to consider one simple question: What is next for green building?

If you want to learn more and see if one of these peer networks is right for you, visit


Daniel Overbey, AIA, LEED Fellow, WELL AP is the Director of Sustainability at Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf in Indianapolis and is also an Assistant Professor at Ball State University's College of Architecture and Planning.

Published January 24, 2019

Overbey, D. (2019, January 24). Sustainable Design Leaders Find Comradery at Greenbuild. Retrieved from

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December 12, 2022 - 4:53 pm

Hi Everyone!  About ten days ago, Megan Zack posted a note announcing her new role as Chief Sustainability Officer at Wight & Company. (Yay!)  I'm so delighted that she will be stepping into this leadership role at Wight to shepard the firm in the next chapter of their journey in sustainability. 

I wanted to take a moment to say farewell to you and to let you know how inspired I've been by so many of you in the years I've had the priviledge to get to know and hang out with you.  This group is the engine driving change in the design world.  Your passion, intelligence and dogged determination is making a significant contribution to the changes you seen coming to fruition all around you.  In the early days, I remember the feelings of despair I had over the slow pace of change and the sense that one project at a time was not adding up to anything at all.  Today, if you look around us, that change is speeding up and together with other dedicated, funny, passionate brainacs in other fields of innovation, the change is being magnified.  Don't let the bad news bears and the naysayers stop you in your tracks!  Yes the work is urgent and the pace needs to increase, but each of you is making a difference.  And I'm proud to know you.

I'm hanging up my shingle on my 34 years in architecture with confidence that you and your colleagues are going to continue sprinkling your brilliance on all your endeavors.  I will be in my basement working on my art in clay.  My personal email, if you're ever in the Chicago area and you want to have coffee or tea or just hug a tree is