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Make no mistake about it, I was nervous about attending Greenbuild this year. There was the delta variant of COVID-19 on my mind, the apprehension of sitting on an airplane traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast, not to mention I hadn’t been in a crowd that size since seeing the band The Revivalists on the final weekend of February 2020.
But I felt that I had to be there. The challenges around climate change are substantial. Added to that is grappling with how to prepare for a post-pandemic future, and how we can both re-enter our buildings safely and create the buildings of the future with occupant health and wellness chief in mind. The compounding crises we face make this industry’s role more important than ever. And, of course, there were sessions that needed to be supported and attended, and messages to be amplified. So, I eagerly anticipated the weeks leading up to Greenbuild and the opportunity to connect with our community once again.
What I discovered after an exhausting (some things never change) week in San Diego, was that Greenbuild is still great! It still carried an international clientele. It still had great exhibitors. And it still had the most passionate attendees. While we’ve successfully used virtual meeting software to see each other, there is no replacement for face-to-face interaction. Just seeing people and their reactions in person, sometimes hugging them, sometimes elbow bumping them, was energizing.
Greenbuild did what Greenbuild does. It delivered on the most critical topics of the day. I saw the intersection of green building and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion while listening to the funny and revealing Dan Levy, as well as inspiring remarks from panelists Beverly Scott, Kevin Patel and USGBC’s own Selina Holmes. The intersections between green building, ESG, resilience and health and wellness carried throughout sessions and discussions all week long. Whether it was talking about the impacts of physical risks from natural hazards, the clear need for improved indoor air quality measurement tracking or how partnerships will be our strongest pathway to success – it was clear this week that the people in buildings and communities need to be front and center in everything that we do. And a shared prosperity means the benefits accrue to everyone, not just some.
Though Greenbuild was different this year, it also created opportunities and delivered an inclusive experience. I met so many young people I likely wouldn’t have been able to speak with otherwise. These are the next generation who will help us deliver results on the groundwork we’re laying. Their energy and enthusiasm was rejuvenating and, dare I say infectious. And conversations I had with old friends were longer and more impactful. In prior years, I always felt the need to move from person to person spending just a few minutes with each. That wasn’t the case this year, and my experience was better because of it. After this week, I’m more ready for the increased engagement that will drive us to meet our collective goals around green building, ESG, decarbonization and health and wellness.
Ending the week with a special toast celebrating 20 years of Greenbuild events, and knowing I’ve missed just one of the 15 since joining this movement, was something special and I am grateful to have had the opportunity.
I can’t wait for Greenbuild San Francisco next year.