Sprinkled throughout the miles of aisles at the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo held last month in Chicago were several dozen electrical companies. It was a little tough to find all the lighting companies and other electrical exhibitors at a trade show with hundreds of booths and a record 27,000 attendees. But it was somehow fitting that electrical companies were competing for attention with manufacturers of products such as insulation, windows, potting systems for the vegetation used in “green roofs” and recycled timber, because energy-efficient electrical products compete for attention in the minds of architects, engineers, designers and other green professionals, and on the jobsite with general contractors, as well as contractors in other specialty trades.
Still, some electrical exhibitors definitely stood out at this year's Greenbuild. Salespeople working at WESCO Distribution Inc., Pittsburgh, were slammed much of the time with crowds of attendees interested in the wind turbine, photovoltaic panels and other renewable products on display.
GE and Eaton Corp., Cleveland, Ohio, enjoyed solid booth traffic at the show, due in part to the electric vehicle charging stations they were promoting. GE personnel at Greenbuild said the WattStation electric vehicle charger was attracting lots of attention at the show, and one public relations exec jokingly said she could have sold several million of them on the second day of Greenbuild.
During an exclusive interview with Electrical Wholesaling at Greenbuild, Luis Ramirez, CEO, GE Industrial Solutions, said one of the biggest challenges in the market today for GE and its distributors is meeting the changing information needs of new employees. He said the generation that's retiring now depends on different modes of communication than young employees just getting into the electrical business. Ramirez said they rely on social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to get information, and that GE and its distributors need to communicate with them in these formats.
Four of the biggest trade groups in the construction market used Greenbuild to launch of the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), which after a lengthy review process will offer municipalities and other local governmental entities a broad green building code they can adopt and enforce to accelerate the construction of high-performance green buildings in their communities. At the press conference announcing the IGCC launch were representatives from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the International Code Council (ICC), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES). They agreed that the IGCC will broaden and strengthen building codes in a way that will accelerate the construction of high-performance green buildings across the U.S.
At the Greenbuild announcement, Code Council CEO Richard Weiland said, “IGCC Version 2.0 is provided as a resource tool for jurisdictions considering adoption or amendment of regulations for green and high-performance construction. Public Version 2.0 reflects the work of the IGCC Public Hearings Committee, which conducted a review of 1,500 comments and nearly 120 hours of testimony during eight days of public hearings in Chicago last August.”
Some building industry executives at the press conference announcing the IGCC said some municipalities were using the USGB LEED design standards as a green building code, although USGBC's goal for LEED was always to be a blue-chip design standard for sustainable building and not a construction code. USGBC recently reached a major milestone when the total footprint of commercial projects certified under its LEED Green Building Rating System surpassed one billion square feet. Another six billion square feet of projects are registered and currently working toward LEED certification around the world. Since it was introduced to the marketplace in 2000, more than 36,000 commercial projects and 38,000 single-family homes have participated in LEED.
“This traction demonstrates the transformation of the way we design, build and operate buildings,” said Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC's president, CEO and founding chair. “Not only does green building contribute to saving energy, water and money, it also creates green jobs that will grow and energize our economy.”Chicago was a fitting venue for this year's Greenbuild because the city has the most municipally-owned LEED buildings in the world, and Mayor Richard Daley is widely respected as one of the nation's biggest proponents of sustainable buildings. At Greenbuild's closing session he received an award named in his honor, The Richard M. Daley Legacy Award, for the work he and his administration have done in promoting green construction in Chicago.
The city's Merchandise Mart, said to be the largest commercial building in the world, is also the largest to ever receive a LEED silver rating, and the 110-story Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), the tallest building in North America, is undergoing a $350 million retrofit. Even McCormick Place, the convention center where Greenbuild was held, has some impressive green credentials: its innovative drainage system collects 55 million gallons of rainwater per year and diverts it into Lake Michigan instead of the city's storm sewer system. Greenbuild 2011 will be held in Toronto, Oct. 5-7, 2011.