The USGBC's Greenbuild International Conference and Expo launched in San Francisco this week as over 30,000 attendees, speakers and exhibitors crowded into the three wings of the downtown Moscone Convention Center. Over 1,000 booths filled with sustainable products and companies made up the expo portion of the conference, while a fascinating—and at times surprisingly political—group of speakers led conversations among the attendees. Read on to see our favorite picks from this year's Greenbuild!
A surprisingly political lineup of speakers (including Jerry Brown, Cory Booker, George Pataki, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski) bookended the 2012 Greenbuild conference in San Francisco. They spoke about all aspects of environmental policy, green building and infrastructure. USGBC President Rick Fedrizzi rallied the troops with an aggressive talk taunting detractors and framing the conversation as “we are right” when it comes to the debate on the future of society. We hit the show and caught some of the most innovative products that can make that rhetoric a reality.
Filterpave is a paving material made from 96% ground glass that is bound with an acrylic binder. The surface is laid in the same manner as concrete, and it’s available in several vivid colors. What makes the surface so green is its ability to let rain easily percolate through—making parking lots, patios and walkways storm water management systems.
A much softer surface is available from Bramal – it’s made from 50% reused tires and it can cover just about any substrate. It can be used on roofs to shed water, on bridges to protect steel, and tests are underway to use Bramal as a low-impact sidewalk in front of buildings.
Grasscrete offers another clever way to make large areas green but still traffic-friendly. It’s a bit like a big egg carton made from paperboard which is filled with concrete. Rebar is placed crisscross inside, and after the concrete cures the voids can be filled with soil or gravel to reduce the dreaded heat island effect.
Other vendors had their heads pointed to the sky. Parans is a clever Swiss device now available in the US that uses Fresnel lenses and fiber optics to pump sunlight indoors. The box tracks the sun all day and fiber optic wires feed those lumens into the interior. Light is reduced 5% per meter, so while you can’t illuminate the lobby of a skyscraper—you can easily light a typical room for most of the day.
Another approach to bringing the sky inside is to well… fake it. Sky Factory has designed an LED screen of clouds rolling past a blue sky for places such as hospitals where patients are often buried deep in the middle of a huge complex. The display mimics the light levels of the day outside to help occupants feel more connected and to improve their circadian rhythms.
Engaurd is a simple batt insulation that performs similar to fiberglass but it’s made from 50% recycled PET plastic and uses a lot less energy to produce. It ups the ante being hydrophobic and fully recyclable. It’s possible to make the product with 100% recycled material, however a big chemical company is sitting on the patent without making a similar product.
Kohler had a nice rest stop made from simple pallets and large cushions around a small greenscape – the best designed respite among the 1000 booths.
William McDonough closed the conference saying “What’s next? Design is the first signal of human intention… the glass is neither half full or empty- the glass is always full of water and air, two essential human needs. But I think the glass is not big enough since I’m a designer.”