Greenbuild, USGBC’s annual green building conference, was held November 16 – November 21 in Washington, DC. Because Ayers Saint Gross is committed to a sustainable future and keeping our professional knowledge as up-to-date as possible, three of our team attended the conference in full in addition to many who stopped in for a day on the expo hall floor. The conference featured building tours, an expo floor filled with the latest products and technologies, and education sessions – including one presented by our own Anne Hicks Harney.

Anne’s session titled “Product Rules,” was presented with Kristen Ritchie, Principal / Director of Sustainable Design at Gensler, Paula Melton, Senior Editor at BuildingGreen, Inc., and Jennifer Atlee, Technical Liaison at Health Product Declaration (HPD) and covered the increasingly important topic of material transparency. As LEEDv4 replaces LEED 2009 in November 2016, credits will be available for project teams that specify and build with products that disclose their material ingredients and human health impacts. The session used Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules for inspiration to lay our 12 basic LEEDv4 Materials and Resources and Environmental Quality rules concerning various environmental concepts and product elements.

Allison Wilson also spoke on the Greenbuild expo floor as part of a panel discussion held at Sefaira’s booth. The discussion focused on how early design can benefit from energy modeling and the various successes and lessons learned from using Sefaira in practice. Allison spoke with Kate Bubriski, Senior Associate at Arrowstreet, Jeff Evans, Associate at HKIT Architects, and Rachel Bannon-Godfrey, Director of Sustainability at RNL Design, to highlight how the different firms have benefited from using Sefaira and intend to continue using the software in future. At Ayers Saint Gross, we’ve found particular value using energy modeling at the conclusion of the schematic design phase to evaluate the efficacy of various shading strategies on overall building performance.

While many sessions caught our interest, the information presented in “Impact of Green Building on Cognitive Function and Health,” on Friday morning is the session we think we’ll all be talking about until the next Greenbuild. The session presented research performed by Harvard University about the relationship between indoor environmental quality and cognitive function. The researchers performed an experiment in which subjects completed a number of cognitive tests in an indoor environment that meets the air quality requirements set forth by LEED and compared the results of subjects’ tests scores to the test scores of subjects who were asked to perform the same cognitive tests in a more normative environment with high levels of CO2. The results of the research correlate increased CO2 levels with poorer cognitive function and provide quantitative support for the long-standing argument that green buildings help occupants function better.

The conference inspired us to continue striving for higher levels of performance in our buildings and reminded us that green buildings are closely related to improved human health. Have a subject you’d like to learn more about at the next Greenbuild? Let us know, and we’ll research it, find appropriate collaborators, and submit a proposal to speak at Greenbuild 2016 in Los Angeles!

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