Former President Bill Clinton announced several partnerships aimed at improving the energy efficiency of hundreds of millions of square feet of public and private real estate throughout the United States during the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC's) 2007 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, held Nov. 7-9 at the new McCormick Place West Building in Chicago.

Delivering the opening-day keynote address before a packed auditorium of about 7,000, Clinton discussed how his William J. Clinton Foundation's Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) will work with the City of Chicago to increase the energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of two Chicago landmarks: The Merchandise Mart, the world's largest commercial building, and Sears Tower, the tallest building in America.

Also in Chicago, the CCI is developing a targeted energy-retrofit program for privately owned multitenant housing.

"The Clinton Climate Initiative will play a major role in helping us reach our goal of making Chicago the most environmentally friendly city in the country," Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said.

Clinton further announced that the CCI will partner with GE Real Estate, one of the world's largest commercial real-estate companies, to identify and implement building-retrofit projects across GE Real Estate's global portfolio.

"We believe we can make a significant, positive impact on the environment while benefiting our business," Ron Pressman, president and chief executive officer of GE Real Estate, said.

Lastly, Clinton announced that the CCI, along with the USGBC and the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, will create a program to retrofit schools and universities across America.

"The tools we need to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions exist today," Clinton said. "When it comes to climate change, the hurdles we face aren't technological; they're organizational, which is why my foundation is partnering with cities, businesses, nonprofits, and schools alike to design systems and programs that reduce energy consumption.

"I'm grateful to them all for working to show the world that the solution to the climate crisis isn't far off in the future," Clinton continued. "It's in the buildings we inhabit, our civic infrastructure, and the way we organize our lives."

Commitment to Research

During Greenbuild, the USGBC Research Committee announced its national green-building-research agenda, which identifies key research areas for advancing building performance and market transformation and explains the scale of funding and capacity growth needed to support all steps from research through deployment.

The ultimate objectives of the research agenda include stable, sustainable energy supplies; clean, renewable, and sufficient water resources; and restorative use of land for the long-term sustainability of habitats.

"This new research agenda is a call to action for the entire industry," Rick Fedrizzi, president and chief executive officer of the USGBC, said. "In keeping with our goal to be both a resource for existing knowledge and a driver of relevant research, USGBC has created this living document to illustrate the breadth of research that is critically needed to transition to a sustainable built environment."

From 2002 to 2004, research on green building constituted about 0.2 percent of all federally funded research. In contrast, building operation accounts for 39 percent of U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions and nearly 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption.

Jump in Attendance

Greenbuild drew nearly 23,000 facility managers, architects, engineers, builders, and developers, a significant increase from the estimated 13,000 who attended the 2006 event in Denver.

"We're definitely happy with the outcome this year," Taryn Holowka, LEED AP, director of communications for the USGBC, said. "We were hoping for 15,000 to 18,000 and ended up near 23,000. It says a lot about Greenbuild and the green movement in general. The Greenbuild movement is becoming much more mainstream."

"Fifteen years ago," Fedrizzi said during his opening remarks, "green building was just a good idea. Today, it's a global movement. In fact, this morning, we are joined by more than 1,000 green-building leaders representing 51 countries around the world."

Fedrizzi said USGBC membership has increased to more than 12,000 organizations and 15,000 individuals. More than 40,000 building professionals are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited, with 50 more taking the exam every day. Meanwhile, an estimated 3.2 billion sq ft of buildings certified under the LEED Green Building Rating System stand in every U.S. state and 41 countries, and more than 100 municipalities have adopted LEED as the benchmark for their public-building portfolios.

Greenbuild 2008

The 2008 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo will be held Nov. 19-21 in Boston. Holowka said the USGBC is projecting attendance to exceed 25,000 and exhibitors to hit the 1,000 mark. The USGBC is accepting proposals until Jan. 11. For more information, visit www.greenbuildexpo.org.