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3 Takeaways from Green Building United’s Sustainability Symposium
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3 Takeaways from Green Building United’s Sustainability Symposium

Recently, we attended the Green Building United Symposium. Although the majority of attendees work in the green building industry, there are sessions that everyone can learn from. After all, what goes into the buildings we live, work and learn in all contribute to our immediate environment.

What were the innovative ideas from the day? Here are three interesting concepts we learned.

1. Urban heat – WTH are we doing about it?

“If we were all able to see things infrared like animals do, the city would’ve been designed differently.”

Sadie Francis, BioPhilly

The first session, The Living Air Conditioning and Carbon Sponges: Biophillic Solutions to Urban Heat Islands session, was a panel with Helena van Vliet of BioPhilly, Laura Hansplant of Roofmeadow, Fredda Lippes of City of Philadelphia, and Sadie Francis of BioPhilly.

They showed us graphs and images of the negative consequences of climate change on the heat island effect and its negative, diverse affects on neighborhoods within the city.

One image in particular, the Sustainability Office’s Heat Vulnerability Index, was particularly frightening. The areas shaded by the colors red and orange, those experiencing high heat indexes, were vulnerable low income communities.

And, according to scientists, within 30 years, Philly will spend as many as 74 days a year above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s 7 more weeks than what we currently experience! What can we do about this? Why we can’t just “air condition” our way out of this?

According to Laura Hansplant, of Roofmeadow, we must implement biodiversity over simple green acreage in our cities across buildings (think: local Philly plants & green foliage). With a higher biodiversity as a part of the structure, buildings have the potential to be vacation spots, due to their relaxing meditative effects. See: our very own Cira Green!

One of the many packed Green Building United Sessions

2. How can meat do good? Enter: Regenerative Agriculture

“Food loses 40-50% of its nutrients because of the way food is made.”

Chad Adams, Ground Plan Studio

Can animal agriculture actually do good? For meat lovers, regenerative farming comes to the rescue.

The session on Regenerative Agriculture and Climate Change: Saving the Planet with Food, led by Edward Dunlea of Carnegie Mellon, and Chad Adams of Ground Plan Studio, focused on carbon farming as just one type of solution to global climate change.

Regenerative farming, aka carbon farming, is the use of farming techniques in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and/or captures the carbon in the soil. For example, photosynthesis draws in from the atmosphere and stores it as carbohydrates. Additional benefits include increased ability of water, improving rural economics and providing a habitat for wildlife.

Want to support regenerative farming? Companies such as White Oak Pastures use humane animal management practices to be a zero waste farm! So, once their humanely raised meats are butchered, leftover skin is turned into beautifully crafted, leather artisanal goods.

Catching up in between sessions

3. Transparency and Healthy Materials Matter!

“Nobody has an intention – Today I’m going to wake up and go kill people with toxic chemicals.”

Christopher Lee, Jacobswper Architects

The Closing the Loop on Transparency session, conducted by Gemma Antoniewicz of GreenCircle, Dhruv Raina of Tarkett USA Inc., and Christopher Lee of Jacobswyper Architects, emphasized the need for participation from everyone across the industry for healthier materials and transparency!

Think: What type of ingredients really make up that new cool wallpaper you decided to plaster your kitchen with?

July 2018 was a big month! 38 leading building product manufacturers wrote a letter to the design community urging for leaders to close the loop on transparency by advocating for transparent material ingredients.

The session ended with a quick little activity that mostly applied to designers and architects, but can easily apply to consumers (which is you too.)

Want to try it at home? Ask yourself about your buying habits.

  1. What are some products you purchased that you spent time researching?
  2. What was your top 5 criteria? (performance? cost? durability? etc.)
  3. What was the biggest barrier to considering sustainability as one of your criteria?

Some interesting examples that came up: children’s toys and furniture. Many participants felt that there is this disconnect between finding products and finding transparent information about them.

Do you agree? Tell us in the comments.

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Klaudia Sikora
Klaudia Sikora is a senior marketing major with a minor in public relations at La Salle University. She has previously interned at And We Evolve and Covenant House, where she was able to develop her skills and passions. During her downtime, you can catch her visiting the next local coffee shop on her list, or sitting knee-deep in the book section of any thrift store. View all posts by Klaudia Sikora
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