Greenbuild International Conference and Expo just continues to grow. Proving that last year's impressive attendance was no fluke, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the show's sponsor, said attendance for the 2008 event, held Nov. 19-21 in Boston, was just over 28,000 — an increase of about 20 percent over 2007. That's big.

At a time when serious economic challenges are impacting conference attendance across the country, Greenbuild not only defied the trend, it blew it to pieces. Green is big business and getting bigger. Green, sustainability — whatever you want to call it — is here to stay.

Or maybe green has been here all along, but previously went by a name that wasn't as catchy. In a classic case of what's old is new again, Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) announced during Greenbuild that it is promoting the concept that efficiency is the first step toward sustainability. Imagine that, energy efficiency is green. Or is it green is energy efficiency? Either way, that's how JCI sees the future of sustainability. Considering that's what a survey of HPAC Engineering readers determined earlier this year — that the overriding factor in green is energy efficiency — I'm not a bit surprised about JCI's announcement.

“More than ever before, efficiency has become the new industry metric,” Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability for JCI, said. “People who design, build, own, and operate buildings need to not only control energy costs, reduce the environmental impact, and increase the value of their buildings, but do it more efficiently.”

The three main drivers of JCI's Efficiency Now campaign are rising and volatile energy costs, increased customer interest in reducing carbon footprints, and increased customer interest in making buildings more competitive assets, Nesler said.

Asked if the dramatic plunge in the cost of oil will slow the energy-efficiency initiative, Nesler said no. Major capital investments to improve building efficiency will be based on life-cycle decisions rather than immediate payback. It's not a question of whether the price of energy will climb again, it's a matter of when and how high. This past summer appears to have been a tipping point.

So while it may have taken the USGBC to raise or renew awareness of sustainability's role in the future of our buildings, energy efficiency is the engine that will get us there. But you probably knew that.


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