Nov 05 2019

Sustainable Building Week 2019

By Lynn Morgan

Sustainable Building Week 2019 did not feel like an event only in its second year in existence.  With a robust schedule of nearly 30 well-organized, well-attended events in a wide range of topics, this cross-pollination of Portland’s best and brightest design and building professionals came together like a well-oiled machine to inspire, connect and educate.  About 1800 attendees attended events all over the city to focus on a multitude of issues that need to be addressed in an effort to Keep Portland Green.  

Hot topics included Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and discussions around how true sustainability cannot exist without equity and Embodied Carbon and the challenges of measuring and reducing total carbon emissions in the construction industry; and Materials Transparency and how the expectation for transparency in product ingredients is growing in response to the demand for healthier built environments.  The week was rounded out with sustainable building tours, panel discussions, happy hours, dance parties, a hike, a run and a morning of yoga for green professionals. Oh my!

The Sustainable NW Wood team divided up and attended as many events as possible, soaking up the opportunities to learn, share ideas, collaborate and connect. Here are our highlights from the week.

From Jake Foster, Inside Sales:  

 As a first time Sustainable Building Week attendee, I found it inspiring to see all the different angles and approaches people are taking in order to use business as a tool to implement a more sustainable society. The Small But Mighty Happy Hour consisted of 6 of the PNW’s finest firms and individuals giving a brief presentation on their work. The presenters ranged from an author, to a landscape architect, to a sustainability focused communications agency. Highlights for me included the work being done by Keith Jones, the director of PDX Green Loop, as well as some of the more impressive passive house designs I’ve ever seen by Michelle Jeresek at Ivon Street Studio. I left feeling comforted and reassured knowing that there are incredibly talented people in our community doing everything they can to make the world a better place.

Passive House 101 was an in-depth presentation of the history and fundamental principles of Passive House, the world’s leading standard for energy efficient construction. Josh Salinger of Birdsmouth and Beth Campbell of Green Hammer, both board members of Passive House Northwest, presented to a packed house at the spectacular office of Ankrom Moisan in downtown Portland. The audience consisted of a well-rounded mix of architects, builders and everyone in between. Highlights included the importance of reducing thermal bridging, use of high-performance windows, and project specific optimization of utilizing solar heat. Due to its project specific customization and proven success in every climate zone around the world, Passive House certainly does seem to be the world’s leading standard for energy efficient construction. With a great turnout of so many talented individuals and organizations, I left feeling confident that construction here in the PNW is heading in the right direction.

From Lynn Morgan, Sales & Marketing Manager:

It’s hard to believe this was only the 2nd Annual Sustainable Building Week. It was so well organized, thought provoking and inspiring!  Debunking Product Transparency for Manufacturers was an informative, educational and in-depth look at how product ingredients are pushing specifications and how transparency around ingredients is transforming business. Led by our own Terry Campbell and krowdsourced  Director of Sustainable Data & Resources, Ren DeCherney, this panel discussion brought together speakers from International Living Future Institute (ILFI), Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) and Healthy Product Declaration (HPD) to de-mystify the process of obtaining 3rd party material certifications and how they help designers, architects and consumers more easily find products for healthier built environments.  

Conversations about Conservation – a tour of the Oregon Conservation Center and headquarters of The Nature Conservancy. Hosted by Sustainable NW Wood and led by president, Ryan Temple, project architect Timothy Cooke with Lever Architecture, and Mitch Maxon with The Nature Conservancy, this tour highlighted some of the beautiful and well-thought design details of this newly remodeled building. The seamless partnerships worked together to create a much more open and collaborative space for their employees and the community.  As part of The Nature Conservancy’s commitment to conservation and sustainable forestry, the project utilized local cedar and juniper products from their own preserves, and nearly 70,000 board feet of Forest Stewardship Council certified lumber, partnering with local manufacturing partners for a building that “walks the talk.” 

From Terry Campbell, Director of Business Development:

Reflecting upon Sustainable Building Week (SBW) 2019 I am left with a positive attitude that many of the issues facing our planet and humanity can be addressed in the built environment.  I condensed my experience during the week into three topics that caught my attention. 

First it is clear that the sustainable building movement has a great opportunity to be a leader in addressing societal issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.  With three events dedicated to this topic I was happy to be a part of the Diversity Game Changer event which provided a platform for seldom heard voices to share their story.  Collaborations for improving city, state, regional and national policies need to benefit all of us. 

Secondly, I got very nerdy with ‘embodied carbon.’  This should be a rising concern for all green building practitioners as the amount of carbon emitted from the full life cycle of products needs to be better understood.  We need to look for methods to eliminate the carbon upfront before its embodied in our products, buildings and atmosphere.  The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) Portland Collaborative and Gensler event, Designing a Carbon-Free Future: for Portland and Beyond, provided some excellent information and in-depth discussion. 

Lastly, Solar Oregon’s Electrify Everything event was utterly compelling.  From the small renovations one can do to their dwelling, to the benefits that can be realized from electric cars, the panel made a very electrifying case for switching off the tap to all fossil fuels.

With these issues not going away, I look forward to developing some great collaborations with people I met and working towards Keeping Portland Green!

                And that’s a wrap.  One incredible week of connection, collaboration and learning with like-minded people dedicated to a better, more sustainable future.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  We’re looking forward to being part of Sustainable Building Week for many years to come and  hope to see you there next year!  For more info or to get involved