By Grey Lee

Greenbuild 2014 in New Orleans was a very positive experience for our community.  Once again, we gathered as a professional force to address how the built environment can be improved for greater social benefit.  Hundreds of educational sessions explored the technical, financial, regulatory, and even philosophical aspects of green buildings and sustainability in communities.
New Orleans and surrounding communities in the Gulf Coast were prime examples of how green building know-how can help communities.  Especially important this year was the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Summit, which highlighted the work happening in New Orleans.  We heard from the Make It Right foundation – Brad Pitt's organization responding to post-Katrina community challenges with LEED Platinum homes.  Also, the Broadmoor community re-created itself after utter destruction with an “education axis” and from I-SEEED of Oakland, CA about using community knowledge to solve design challenges.
Dozens of Massachusetts Chapter colleagues were able to attend this year – a few made it to the group photo shot on Thursday. A great group of folks!
One of the engaging topics during the week was the “Chapters Evolution” discussion on Wednesday.  The USGBC Chapters Staff and the volunteer Chapters Steering Committee is looking at how to evolve the 75-Chapter network to become a stronger organization and more effective body of advocates for market transformation.  Over the past couple of years, many of the chapters have been losing members and declining in financial health, while a few large chapters based in large cities like New York, San Francisco and others have been growing into very effective entities in the network.
The Massachusetts Chapter has been growing significantly over the past few years and the Boston-based real estate market is a strong host for our high-performance green building industry.  It seems that USGBC wants to support a stronger grassroots network with a more focused and repeated advocacy voice and to improve efficiencies across the Chapters.  Our Board of Directors and I are monitoring the situation to understand what the USGBC is aiming at and how we can be a leader in whatever “evolution” of the Chapters network turns out to mean.  
Meanwhile, members of the Chapter continued to hustle from one session to the next.  Here we bumped into Kevin Bright, formerly part of the Chapter having worked at Harvard University and now Sustainability Coordinator at Colby College.  Board Chair member Jim Newman, myself, and Darien Crimmin (also a member), of Winn Development are also in the foreground. 
But who is that in the background?  Is that really…of all the 23,000 people who could have been walking by?  Amazingly, I think LEED Fellow and chapter member Leo Roy of VHB seems to have photobombed this pic.  Hey Leo!  Great to see you!
Some of the sessions were more esoteric – here we see Mike Schiller, ED of the Pittsburg Urban Green Alliance, hosting the “Storytelling” session where we heard from half a dozen folks to help us see how to present your history and your vocation as a story to engage with your listeners for longer lasting and stronger impressions.

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Chapter held a get-together at “The Warehouse” pub on the way to the main Opening Celebration at the Superdome.  We were able to play a few rounds of “corn hole” before heading to the big show.

At the Superdome, we heard a great talk with Paul Hawken (pictured) and other notables.  It was a little slow, but being in the Superdome was entertaining in its own right.

Soon enough, the party got going and we heard from Trombone Shorty and then The Alabama Shakes (below) – it was some fine and strong music!

I bumped into New York Upstate Chapter Tracie Hall and USGBC Advocacy Coordinator Jeremy Sigmon (among others) while listening to the show.

On Thursday evening, I stopped at the major donors party and heard from David Gottfried (below) who spoke about engaging with our passion and staying balanced while we pursue our mission.  He is always a powerful communicator with a heartfelt message.

The Closing Plenary provided us with the opportunity to hear from David Brooks, who had a very important gift for us.  He explored the moral imperative of our work and how buildings can be moral instruments.  Each building and community we work on has a message to its users and its surroundings.  We have an important role to ensure that the moral power of the buildings is expressed for the benefit of the most people and especially to the people of the future.  I very much enjoyed his presentation, as did the large crowd.

All in all, Greenbuild continued to prove that it is a tremendous way to re-charge and rejuvenate for our work.  The plenaries, the educational sessions, the exhibition hall with the hundreds of presenters and mini-shows, and of course, all the product samples was an absolutely impressive feast for every green building professional. I think we can all look forward to going again – and in 2015, Washington DC will host the event.  I'm sure we can rally a really large crew from Massachusetts to head down there to pick up even more knowledge and stronger connections. See you then!

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