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German Green Building conference

Thursday 20 November, 2008

I recently attended this reception & conference sponsored by the German American Chamber of Commerce. Links to the presentations given that day are included on the preceding webpages.  Here are some of the notes I took:

Marc Tomkins of the GACC;
-the Green Party has an influence on policy in Germany

German perspectives-
Prof Hegger of TU Darmstadt;
-gravitational energy is harnessing the power of rising/receding tides in oceans
-it should be no problem to reduce our energy consumption to 1/10 in our existing building stock
-recovering methane gas from former coal pits created a payback of 1.3 years
-flat roofs are no problem for snow loads
-Hamburg is a good example to follow for zoning suggestions
-residential & commercial building technologies are equal in Germany, but not integrated in the US

David Cook of Behnisch Architects;
-IIT is hosting a project on the House of the Future
-we need to work together with nature rather than against it
-architecture is important because absenteeism was reduced 10% for 1 client by moving into a new building in Boston
-renewable energy is not relevant until energy efficiency has been achieved
-using prefabricated materials reduces energy needs

American perspectives-
Laureen Blissard of US Green Building Council & Sachin Anand of dbHMS essentially just read their presentation slides so check them out to see what they have to say

Vuk Vojovic of Legat Architects;
-daylighting (turning off lights in areas lit by external windows) saves big bucks
-China causes 25% of the pollution in California
-rain in Illinois flows to the Mississippi River & not the Great Lakes
-Walmart is saving big bucks by installing skylights

morning panel Q&A
-although there are differences in accounting, green is not expensive when considered over the long term life cycle/amortization period-in Germany, it’s assured you don’t pay more to go green
-3rd party verification is key for green rating systems
-monitoring LEED over time is a voluntary process which is becoming more affordable
-innovation is required in regulation too
-Chicago Mayor Daley is a great advocate for green building
-the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation & Kresge Foundation provide design incentives, funding, & other grants

Scott Mueller of Eclareon;
-70% of productivity improvement comes from inhabitant comfort
-Germany is 10 years ahead of even California’s proposition 24

Please see the presentations from the German companies to learn more about them

In asking about Germany’s advantages in environmental policies, Bruce Bendix of eco2 consulting commented “1 of the major problems in the US is we have no national energy strategy or policy.  Other countries, & Germany is at the top of the list, have focused on particular energy alternatives & benefited greatly from them.”

My take is:  The Germans lead in green building technologies because they value it & devote resouces to it.  Ever since I attended the University of Michigan, I’ve been pretty environmentally aware.  After living in Germany for a couple of years, I learned it’s really ingrained in their culture to consider the environmental ramifications of everything they do.  Part of it is because they have to, since Germany is much more densely populated than here in the States.  Also their longer term view leads them to pay more attention to it.  Politically, part of their success stems from the approach that they eliminated the clout of the incumbant vested interests & allowed new smaller companies to compete on an even playing field with the big guys.  The result is far higher use of renewable energies than anywhere else on Earth.  We’d do well to emulate this model.  My feeling is we have only 1 Earth & we need to do more to take care of it.

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