As the federal government’s commitment to fight climate change becomes more uncertain, a group of sustainable energy practitioners are shoring up their resolve to work regionally to build healthier, more durable, energy efficient buildings and communities. Approximately 2,500 professionals from every field related to buildings and the codes that govern them will gather at the BuildingEnergy Boston Conference + Trade Show, March 7-9 to share best practices and provide an actionable model for climate change mitigation.
“NESEA has been holding conferences for architects, engineers, and builders for more than 30 years,” said Conference Co-Chair Heather Nolen, of Steven Winter Associates. “We’ve built a reputation as a one-stop venue for all things related to sustainable energy in our buildings. Conference topics provide attendees with techniques ready for immediate use on current projects and provide inspiration for future endeavors.”
“What separates this year’s conference from those in the past is that we’ve reached far beyond our single- family, residential roots to address much larger buildings and communities. As the urgency of mitigating climate change increases, we’ll be there to answer the call,” said Jennifer Marrapese, Executive Director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA), which hosts the conference.
This year’s program, which features more than 60 sessions and workshops and 100 exhibitors, is unprecedented in its diversity. Sessions focus on buildings of all types and sizes, including several case studies of high performance building projects on college campuses and the techniques used to engage occupants in their operation.
“The most effective way that we, as professionals, can mitigate climate change is to ensure that our largest buildings are as efficient as possible. But it’s not just about the buildings anymore. Our sessions go beyond energy. They address the whole system—from how much energy it takes to produce and transport our building materials, to how our buildings are designed to operate in the context of a smarter and cleaner grid, to whether building occupants know how to operate their buildings to minimize their environmental footprint,” said Conference Co-Chair Stephan Wollenburg, an independent energy consultant in Worcester, MA.
One example of this whole-systems focus is the opening plenary session, which will be given by Dr. Craig Jones, of Circular Ecology. Dr. Jones is an embodied energy, carbon footprint, and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) expert. In 2012 he was listed as #14 on Building Design’s list of the most influential people in UK sustainability. He provided data to carbon footprint the construction of the London 2012 Olympics and tailored an embodied energy and carbon database for the $22 billion Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, which aspires to be the first zero-carbon, zero-waste, and car-free city. Dr. Jones’ session will provide a visual overview of how our own local consumption can have unexpected impacts — even on the other side of the world.
Other themes of this year’s conference include:
- Water, water everywhere: How to heat water efficiently, how to conserve it as a natural resource, how to build for resilience where flooding is an increasingly present threat. This year’s BuildingEnergy Boston Conference features a number of sessions on water, including a not-to-be missed hands-on opportunity to learn from world-class expert Gary Klein on how best to configure your DHW system for energy
- Occupant behavior: We all know that a building is only as efficient as the occupants that use it. As South Mountain Company concluded in a white paper several years ago, “There are no net zero buildings, there are only net zero occupants.” This year’s conference features several sessions to ensure that energy efficient projects perform as intended, and that the occupants know how best to optimize the building for efficiency and
- Community-scale solutions: No building is an island. Several of this year’s sessions focus on scaling energy efficiency and resiliency solutions to communities and neighborhoods. In one such session, a group of leaders who call themselves “Boston Women Leading Change” will dive deep into ideas and solutions they generated from a June 2016 trip to Copenhagen that can readily be imported to cities in the Northeast, including stormwater management, wind energy, transportation planning, district heating, and social resiliency.
- New technologies: The BuildingEnergy Boston trade show floor will feature the latest in sustainable energy technologies including energy storage solutions, charging technologies for electric vehicles, and more. In addition, two “lightning round” conference sessions will highlight succinct, practical information on many products and services, such as the advantage of chilled beam systems and extracting value from energy management
BuildingEnergy Boston 2017 features industry experts from the Northeast and beyond, including: Patrick Deegan of DAC Technologies, Thomas RC Hartman of C&H Architects, Stephanie Horowitz of Zero Energy Design, Declan Keefe of Placetailor, Katrin Klingenberg of PHIUS, Andrea Love of Payette, Bill Maclay of Maclay Architects, Ty Newell of University of Illinois, Christopher Nielson of Bruner/Cott, Karl Rabago of Pace Law Center, Marc Rosenbaum of South Mountain Company, Cooper Schilling of Kieran Timberlake, John Straube of RDH Building Science Laboratories, Paul Torcellini of National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Kohta Ueno of Building Science Corporation, solar pioneer Steven Strong of Solar Design Associates, who installed photovoltaics on the White House in the 1970s and again in 2014, and many more.