Feature Article

USGBC's Austin Conference a Great Success

Likely to be remembered as a watershed in the sustainable building movement, the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) first annual International Conference and Exposition, held in Austin, Texas last month, was a resounding success. While the Council hoped for about 2,000 attendees, the final tally, including exhibitors, was 4,189 registrants. The conference was preceded by a “member day” in which 500 Council members learned about new initiatives and met in committees to work on LEED™ and other programs.

Despite constrained hours of the trade show, exhibitors were very happy with the interest in products and services on display.

Photo: USGBC
The two-and-a-half-day conference featured three morning plenary sessions, a luncheon keynote address, and 80 breakout sessions (10 simultaneous sessions in each of eight 90-minute time slots). Two concurrent conferences added to the excitement of the event. UPEx ’02: Photovoltaic Experience Conference and Texas Renewables ’02 shared the exhibit hall and some sessions with the USGBC conference.

Keynote speakers, including Dr. David Suzuki of Canada and Chrisna du Plessis of South Africa, provided a broad context and international perspective to the conference.

While the Green Building Exposition was well attended and well received, its limited hours were the subject of grumbling among both exhibitors and attendees. The sold-out expo (220 booths and tabletop displays) included not only product manufacturers and industry trade groups but also design and engineering firms, building contractors, commissioning agents, environmental organizations, and government agencies. Despite the expo’s short duration, exhibitors used to more mainstream building conventions were ecstatic at the level of interest in their products. A remarkable 92% have renewed for the 2003 conference!

DuPont Textiles & Interiors (DTI), manufacturer of Antron® carpet fibers, afforded the conference itself a note of sustainability by donating greenhouse gas emission credits to the Leonardo Academy’s Cleaner and Greener™ program on behalf of the USGBC. The credits, earned through the voluntary installation of emission abatement equipment at DTI’s Sabine River Works facility in Orange, Texas, represent the avoidance of 2,100 tons (1,900 tonnes) of greenhouse gas emissions—more than that caused by all travel, hotels, and other operations connected to the conference. More information about the program is available online at www.cleanerandgreener.org.

Scientist Dr. David Suzuki inspired conferees with his opening address, “The Challenge of the 21st Century: Setting the Real Bottom Line.”

Photo: USGBC
The Vinyl Institute and Greenpeace, among others, went head to head in Austin, vying to influence the USGBC’s yet-unresolved policy on the use of PVC in buildings. Greenpeace even organized a fairly mild protest in front of the Convention Center on opening day. Following several years of groundwork, the Council’s Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee announced the formation of a subcommittee to come up with recommendations on whether the use of PVC should be discouraged in the LEED™ Rating System. (A second subcommittee was formed to study LEED’s position on HCFCs.) Not invited to the conference, documentary filmmaker Judith Helfand presented the anti-PVC film

Blue Vinyl (reviewed in


Vol. 11, No. 4) at a nearby theater to a capacity crowd. More than 100 people were turned away.

The Council announced several developments at the conference. The long-awaited World Green Building Council was officially launched (see related article). The Committee on State and Local Government released their Tool Kit for creating new green building programs (see related article). The USGBC presented its first “Sacred Tree” Green Leadership awards at the gala dinner (see related article). And, most significantly, the streamlined version 2.1 of LEED™ was officially launched (see related article).

Over 170 students and young professionals gathered at the conference in a Forum for Young Professionals in Green Building, sponsored by the USGBC. Participants discussed means of collaboration among young members of the green building movement as well as between the first and second generation of green building professionals. Next steps include the creation of a Web site, a list-serve, and events at upcoming green building conferences. For more information, or to get involved, e-mail emerginggreenbuilders@yahoo.com.

Planning for next year’s USGBC conference is under way, and a call for papers will be distributed in January. Attendance projections for the event range from 6,000 to over 10,000 participants. It’s set to take place November 12–14, 2003 at the Lawrence Conference Center—the nation’s first “green” convention center—in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For further details, call the Council at 202/828-7422 or visit www.usgbc.org.

Published December 1, 2002

(2002, December 1). USGBC's Austin Conference a Great Success. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/feature/usgbcs-austin-conference-great-success