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Attendees Got Their Buzz on at the Built Green Conference

Author: Sonja O'Claire, Built Green Program Manager

We want to send out a big thank you to those of you who attended the first-ever VIRTUAL Built Green Conference on September 17! COVID-19 caused the Built Green team to make a significant pivot, holding the conference on a virtual platform rather than the in-person conference we all hoped for. But still, what a buzzy day it was!

Going virtual didn’t stop us from making this a fun, interactive event with as many features as we could to replicate what our members expect from our in-person conferences. We had a variety of networking opportunities, photo booths available, and interactive Q&A sessions with keynotes and speakers.

2020 Built Green Virtual Conference session: Deconstruction to Reconstruction Q&A on Zoom, featuring Gina Tucci, John Benavente, Theresa Blaine, Daniel Joliffe, and Grace Huang
Speaker Leah Missik poses in the Built Green Conference virtual photobooth
2020 Built Green Virtual Conference lobby

No matter the challenges we have faced in 2020, the Built Green community demonstrated it can still come together collectively to share important knowledge to advance green building in our region. We premiered a new video celebrating our 20,000th Built Green certified home and all the positive environmental impacts that Built Green has accomplished over the past 20 years.

Our morning keynote speaker, Gil Friend, CEO of Natural Logic Inc. and founder of Critical Path Capital, began the day by acknowledging how much the Built Green community has accomplished in the Puget Sound region, but also how much is left to do in such a short amount of time. We are not alone in this. Many cities and countries have not progressed fast enough or far enough to meet their climate reduction targets, and those commitments are far too tame to have the impact that is truly needed to combat the effects of climate change.

2020 Built Green Conference Keynote Gil Friend

Keynote Gil Friend

2020 Built Green Conference Keynote Stacy Smedley

Keynote Stacy Smedley


Friend challenged us all to “push beyond the familiar, the comfortable, the obvious, and to do the unprecedented” at a faster pace. With COVID-19 still raging, he stressed that the focus has been shifted away from our environmental concerns and responsibilities, and rightly so, but pointed out that we need to develop resilient systems to be able to respond to multiple crises at once, because the world is not going to be polite and hold off until we solve each crisis one-by-one. Friend also pointed out a silver lining: the pandemic has showed us how fast we can rally and pivot our behaviors and resources to fight in uncertain times where the ground is always shifting. He asked us to imagine what we could accomplish if we harnessed that same energy and effectiveness towards mobilizing to address climate change and the uncertain futures it holds.

Following the keynote, the day was filled with educational sessions. Conference-goers had the opportunity to attend sessions from four different tracks: Hive Mind, Resilient Communities, Policy Carrots, and Built Science. Session topics ranged from social equity and inclusivity-based design and planning, how COVID-19 and millennials are shaping housing market trends, practical design and technologies for building affordable net-zero homes, electrification strategies for multifamily housing, the high-value building resources provided by deconstruction and certified forests, upcoming impacts of 2018 WSEC for green builders, and a roundtable of public and private stakeholders to push energy policy consensus towards net zero emissions. There was something for attendees from all sectors and very lively Q&A sessions.

Midday, we recognized Built Green’s outstanding builders and advocates during our annual Built Green Hammer Award ceremony. Some of the best projects from the past year were highlighted and Built Green supporters were recognized for their contributions to the program. Surprise awards included builder TC Legend Homes winning Project of the Year for their Everson Farmhouse project. The Everson Farmhouse was also awarded the Built Green 20,000th certification earlier this year, as well. Kinley Deller and Grace Huang were also recognized as Built Green Pioneers for their advocacy. Here’s a glimpse of the beautiful urban-harvested walnut plaque that each award winner will receive—congratulations to all our 2020 award winners!

Evergreen Certified 2020 Built Green Hammer Award plaque
Blackwood Builders 2020 Built Green Hammer Award plaque

Afternoon keynote speaker Stacy Smedley, director of sustainability at Skanska USA Building and executive director at Building Transparency, has long embraced collective actions in the pursuit of sustainable design, as well as construction methods to build resilient communities. She was a lead developer of the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3), an open-source tool released in 2019. Her presentation began explaining how we need to make changes that better the environment before it’s too late. Smedley gave real-life examples, such as the orange, smoke-filled skies that were taking over the West Coast skies as she was giving her keynote, causing unhealthy conditions for many. Stacy stated, “we are at a series of tipping points, simultaneously seeing the impacts of climate change realized and bearing witness to how global society can come together to take action or choose not to via the pandemic response, while also experiencing how we can all stay connected in a virtual society.” She stressed the importance of being a connector; sharing our various strengths, data, and knowledge; and working together to cause positive tipping points and to spur movement in the fight against climate change.

Smedley also told the story of her journey that propelled her into working with over 150 individuals and organizations, such as the Carbon Leadership Forum, to address the monumental task of modeling and calculating the embodied carbon of buildings. For a 480,000SF sample project in Seattle, embodied carbon represented 85% of the total lifetime carbon emissions. What came out of that was the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool, one of the first free databases of Environmental Product Declarations and an embodied carbon calculator. The EC3 project highlighted how connected individuals can work together to use the data they have to persuade others to take action for a collective outcome.

Conversations weren’t just held during the keynotes or breakout sessions. Throughout the day, our hive kept buzzing as attendees, speakers, and sponsors kept conversations going using our online Bee Social Slack channels. Additionally, our virtual Ask-a-Keynote-Anything sessions offered attendees additional time to interact with keynote speakers in small groups outside of the standard post-speech Q&A. Virtual photobooth photos were shared with the hashtag #BuiltGreen2020 and connections were made both online and “face-to-face.”

We hope everyone who came to the conference learned something new and walked away feeling inspired. We hope to see you next year, hopefully for an in-person conference!

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