Thoughts on This Year’s Greenbuild

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Thoughts on This Year’s Greenbuild

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Last week, Microsoft attended the Greenbuild NEXT conference in Toronto. Hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council, the conference brought 23,000 people together - a diverse array of leaders from across the building industry, including Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Research, and Real Estate Finance and Management.

Microsoft was at Greenbuild as part of its commitment to using software to improve energy-efficiency within the built environment.  At the conference we released a white paper detailing the preliminary results of an “energy-smart buildings” pilot aimed at using technology to improve the energy efficiency of buildings on the Microsoft campus. We were also honored to support Johnson Controls Inc.’s launch of PanoptixTM, a new building efficiency solution built on Microsoft’s data and applications platform, including Azure.

One of the highlights of Greenbuild was the all-star line-up of speakers for the opening plenary, which included the Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat and his new book That Used To Be Us, who delivered the keynote at the Air Canada Centre. In his keynote, Friedman called for a “more sustainable growth path – economically and in mother nature” and looked to the building professionals in attendance to help put the economy and the environment on that path. Needless to say, that sentiment was well received by the audience!  Friedman also underscored that the green movement will only be successful when its values become ingrained in how the world does business and sets policy. In his words: “Our revolution will be here when the word ‘green’ disappears.”  After his keynote, Friedman was joined on stage by former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell, Dr. Paul Farmer of Harvard Medical School and Cokie Roberts of ABC News, who moderated a discussion around some of the themes in Friedman’s keynote, and highlighted examples of leading-edge sustainable development rising from the ruins in Haiti following the devastating earthquake in 2010.

In addition to the opening keynote, members of our team also had the opportunity to attend a few sessions that touched on themes close to those in our white paper.  At a panel on Wednesday morning about zero emission commercial buildings, Bill Valentine, chairman of architectural firm HOK, described a project his firm designed in St. Louis, calling these early forays into super-efficient buildings a “first generation Prius”. That phrase captured the sense of being on the verge of a new era in how buildings consume, and begin to generate, energy.

We were also pleased to find an ever-growing number of innovators looking to leverage software to achieve energy efficiency in buildings. On Thursday morning at the Greentech@Greenbuildsession, we heard from 30 entrepreneurs in the green tech space—everything from LED lights and self-tinting windows to end-to-end energy management solutions. Within this innovative group were companies such as BuildingIQ, Enmetric Systems and Serious Energy, which are bringing to market products that leverage software to increase energy efficiency and drive down the cost of energy use in buildings.   Add to this group, the presence of long-established innovators such as Johnson Controls, Siemens, and Esri, and we are excited to see this vibrant, growing industry taking the lead on bringing a diverse array of software-enabled energy-efficiency solutions to the marketplace.

We look forward to next year’s Greenbuild in San Francisco where a number of the industry’s innovators, many of them based in Silicon Valley, will be in attendance!

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  • I attended my first GreenBuild as both an exhibitor and an observer since my division of our corporation was just "piggybacking" on the displays of some of our other companies.  I shared my thoughts on my blog but here is an excerpt.

    First, I was surprised at the sheer size of the exhibit area.  The Metro Toronto exhibit hall is quite large and split into two sections spanning the CN Rail lines in downtown Toronto.  Both sections were completely full with exhibits for everything from flooring to roofing and everything in between.  All exhibitors promoted the "green" or "sustainable" aspects of their products...even if those aspects might not have been obvious on first or even second thought.  In addition to the three Mestek HVAC product booths the exhibit area included product displays from most of the major north American HVAC manufacturers.

    The HVAC equipment companies, as well as many of the lighting and appliance companies, shared one common thread.  That is the emphasis on the "man-machine interface"...how the user interacts with the equipment for control or information.  Touch screen displays were everywhere providing access to virtual control points and providing occupant feedback on temperatures and, most importantly, energy utilization.  The degree of sophistication of the displays varied but the message was the same...in order to conserve energy people must have some sense of how much they are using.  It goes back to the old saying that "you can't manage what you can't measure".  The use of energy metrics have been proven to change occupant behavior and the HVAC industry is stepping up to help with that effort.

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