Sustainable Building Week

Wow what a week! It’s been a week and a half since the first annual Sustainable Building Week (SBW) ended and I think I am finally rested up. The three goals of Sustainable Building Week were to empower design and building professionals to learn, connect and collaborate. I can say from first hand experience that all three of these goals were met for me. The week of 21 events was the result of a collaboration between eleven non-profit professional organizations and three local universities. Events during the week covered the gamut from A Walk in the Woods to an Innovation Bazaar to AIA’s Green Champions to a set of presentations from small firms called “Small but Mighty.”

A strength of Sustainable Building Week is ‘breaking down silos’ between professions and allowing participants to attend events held by professional organizations outside of their very profession. In the spirit of ‘breaking down silos’ I attended an American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Oregon Chapter lunch event that covered the Passive House movement. In this case, you had a wood nerd in a room full of very smart engineers learning about the benefits of making our buildings more air tight, insulated and efficient. The presenter walked through several projects that dramatically improved energy use, which lowers greenhouse gas emissions and saves money, through renovating existing buildings to meet the standard. I walked away from this event with some interesting ideas about how I could make my own home more efficient, plus I ran into an old friend who looked at me like I was a fish out of water at his industry event.

The entire week was a whirlwind of meeting new people, reconnecting with old colleagues and enjoying this community of dedicated professionals. I met engineers, architects, consultants, interior designers, students, manufacturers, builders, general contractors, university faculty and sub-contractors who were all building bridges across disciplines and plotting plans for collaboration. By the end of the week the organizers of this one-of-a-kind event told me that over 500 people had attended the week’s events. That is an amazing amount of connectivity between professionals of various skill sets and experiences. 

The final goal of SBW is critical because without collaboration we will not be able to meet the challenges on our horizon. Becoming a resilient society is going to require a cross-disciplinary approach where all of our professional experiences can be focused on staving off the worst effects of the unpredictable world ahead. At Design the Unseen: Educating Designers to Consider the Micro and Macro for Sustainability, I was happy to introduce a panel of university faculty from Portland State University, University of Oregon and the Art Institute of Portland. The student presentations focused on a wide variety of projects that will help us evolve our designs, re-use of materials, indoor air quality and biophilic design. It was very inspiring to watch the next generation of professionals tackle current day challenges with an eye on the future. 

It’s great to go to events and come away inspired but it’s what we do with what we learn, who we meet and how we craft long lasting collaborations that demonstrate the true effectiveness of events and conferences. At Sustainable NW Wood our goal of offering a transparent, biophilic and restorative product that improves natural ecosystems and employs Pacific Northwesterners is certainly better informed and connected through our participation in Sustainable Building Week. 

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