Rick Fedrizzi, president, chief executive officer, and founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), did not mince words when he took the stage to kick off the 2012 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo Nov. 14 at The Moscone Center in San Francisco.

“We’re up against powerful forces who want to accelerate mountaintop coal removal, fast track a pipeline, or frack the hell out of every square inch of green space we have left,” Fedrizzi said. “Forces who actually don’t want government buildings or college campuses to save energy, save water, and save money—they just want to claim they do.”

If you were an HVAC veteran accustomed to the politically conservative vibe of shows such as the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo), it probably dawned on you: You were not in Kansas any more.

Attending the opening plenary, Daryn Cline, director of environmental technologies for Evapco Inc., designer and manufacturer of products for the evaporative-cooling and industrial-refrigeration markets, said he felt as if he was in the “middle of the Democratic National Convention.” (Contrast that with the comment of opening-plenary speaker Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” who, while looking out over the crowd, observed the green-building movement still looks a lot like a Republican National Convention.)

“Our industry is conservative,” Cline said. “Greenbuild will have to come closer to center. The USGBC will need to lose the left-wing, liberal-agenda focus, or they will lose members and exhibitors.”

Kathy Colby, executive vice president of LAKOS Separators and Filtration Systems, also is a conservative-minded HVAC veteran. She, too, noticed the political undertones, but found the overall presentation of the opening plenary exhilarating.

“It was impressive, like a huge concert where they did lights and video,” Colby said. “It was interesting. It was entertaining. It was uplifting. And it really started the show off right.”

Colby and Cline may have differed as to their primary impressions of the opening plenary, but they both were enthusiastic about their experience as exhibitors at Greenbuild. They commented favorably about the energy, breadth, and quality of the attendees, who numbered more than 25,000. Compared with the AHR Expo, Greenbuild draws a more diverse crowd of building and design professionals, including architects, process engineers, and interior designers.

“It felt very ‘new school,’” Colby said, adding the audience clearly was made up of people looking for product solutions—not just any solutions, but the right solutions. It made for a more “conversational show,” she said.

Brendan Owens, vice president of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) technical development for the USGBC, said the USGBC, the presenter of Greenbuild, has the potential to infuse the HVAC industry with a renewed vigor.

“We can learn from the success and longevity and bulletproof technical rigor that ASHRAE represents and improve the USGBC to the extent that we can bring some of the excitement and infectious enthusiasm to ASHRAE,” Owens said. A consequence of this, he added, is the potential for the USGBC to help draw more young people and greater diversity into the HVAC industry.

When viewed this way, Greenbuild is an increasingly mobilizing force, one that celebrates the complimentary strengths of the USGBC and ASHRAE as they strive toward a shared goal: better buildings.


Trish Holder is a writer and marketing consultant for the HVAC industry. She also is creator and publisher of www.greenspirationhome.com, an online magazine dedicated to helping homeowners build and renovate green. She can be reached at mail@trishholder.com.