Just last week Treehugger joined thousands of designers, builders and architects in Arizona to check out all the latest advances in sustainable building at Greenbuild 2009. By the time we got to Phoenix, we were 28,000 strong, all standing up and cheering for Al Gore’s speech, a new and different one directed at the Greenbuild audience. A conference like this shouldn’t be necessary; every building should be green. But there were stirring speeches, great educational sessions and hundreds of new green products to see.

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Some of the most intersting products were the dullest to look at; this is a good example, perhaps the Best of Show when it comes to solutions that are effective and affordable. Most thermal solar collectors for hot water are made of expensive materials and are not particularly attractive when installed on the roof; this Greenward roof ventturns your entire roof into a solar collector, catching the heat that rises out of a ridge vent and transferring it to your hot water tank. Absolutely simple, elegant and invisible technology. But not much to look at . . .

There were new ideas inice storage systems that could make renewable energy work better, anew local movement in forestry, doing for wood what it did for food; a terrific new low-power evaporative air conditioner, and a nice looking integration of a sink into a toilet tank from Caroma. There were theusual greenwashers,a great attack on the Sustainable Forestry Initiative by ForestEthics (which drew a response in TreeHugger from the President of SFI).

As for booth design, Best of Show probably goes to Autodesk, fortheir cardboard tube construction and their great cardboard chairs.

For those things that didn’t need a full post we did a roundup ofSurprises from Greenbuild,and concluded with interviews of Tony Gale, the Corporate Architect for Starbucks. We were also inspired by Steve Mouzon, who threw cold water on all this high tech green by stating that he prefers just to open a window to get cool.

Finally, we skipped town in the fabulous newPhoenix Light Rail system that takes you from downtown to the airport. It is hard to call Phoenix green, but they certainly are trying.

+ Greenbuild