November 28, 2012
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San Francisco, CA -
This year's greenbuilding conference had much to
inform, inspire, and provoke thought. Two
keynote presentations created a yin and yang of
emotion. Beginning with William McDonough's
remarks about how we are toxifying our environment,
he states, "If that is our intent..." we are
doing a pretty good job. With pharmaceuticals
in some drinking water and toxins in 'mother's
milk', his message is always loud and clear. We need
to do better.
While Mr. McDonough's
comments seem bleak, this year's
conference provided much hope. If
you manufacture anything, here comes 'nutritional'
labeling for your products. We are all familiar
with the nutritional labeling on foods. Many of
us know about MSDS sheets for certain chemicals.
Well here comes EPD's - Environmental Product
Declarations for anything that is manufactured.
Created by the International Standards Organization
(ISO), EPD's list in detail a product's
environmental characteristics. This is a big step
towards transparency and corporate responsibility.
USGBC is making
headway. Over two billion square feet has been
certified since the LEED rating system was adopted.
As we all know, buildings consume most of our
energy, create most of our waste and use water and
other resources very inefficiently. Each day
1.6 million additional square feet of buildings get
certified 'green'. Also announced at Greenbuild, by 2018, six years from now, any building
trying to become a LEED platinum building must be
net zero energy and, more surprisingly, net zero in
water use. How we get there is the challenge -
San Francisco was the
perfect venue. No city in the world recycles
more and SF diverts over 80% of their waste from
landfills. A visit to the local recycling
center shows where all the bottles, paper, food
waste (called compost and not a waste product in SF)
and trash goes. It seems the entire city has
bought into the idea. They have pledged to
achieve zero waste by 2020. A herculean feat,
but if anyone can do it, San Francisco can.
I'll end with a
wonderfully hopeful story. Jane McGonigal
believes video games can save the world. In
her new book (Reality is Broken) Ms. McGonigal
details the benefits of video games. From
improvements in treatment for individuals with ADHD,
autism and depression - to stories of how the
collaborative, problem solving nature of video
gaming can cure disease. She details one
effort called Fold-it (www.fold.it),
where gamers 'fold' proteins in a particular way
that creates a cure for a particular virus.
The first 'game' was created using a known virus and
it's cure. It took scientists and computers 10
years to solve the problem. The gamers did it
in ten weeks. There are now all kinds of games
you can play to help science save the world.
Fold it claims, "The more we know about how certain
proteins fold, the better new proteins can be
designed to combat the disease-related proteins and
cure the diseases."
Once again Greenbuild
delivers. A lot of ideas strategies,
solutions, work, and for some, games to improve our
relationship with the natural world and
secure a sustainable
future for our children and grandchildren.
To review MSA’s top 20 projects, visit
For more information
about the firm go to
Michael Shilale directly by calling 845-708-9200.