2011 Greenbuild Conference - Day 3

john picard.jpg

The last day of the Greenbuild conference ended with an incredible closing plenary session. The theme: “What’s Next?” for the industry.

There were several speakers slated. Mayor Bloomberg, from New York City and current chair of the C-40 Cities Climate Leadership Group was unfortunately unable to attend but he was able to pull together a brief pre-recorded video to share with the attendees. It was great to see him involved even if he couldn’t be there in person.

Two of the live presentations could’ve been pulled straight from the “best of” TED conference videos. They contained fresh ideas, and very unique (and inspiring) ways of approaching them.

The first was from Natalie Jeremijenko, the Director of NYU’s xdesign Environmental Health Clinic. She’s an artist of sorts, and researcher. Her intent is to understand how we can improve our health by enhanced interaction with our surroundings. Research approaches range from the adaptation of robotic dogs helping them to track the scent of environmental toxins to “rhinoceros beetle wrestling” (that’s right) in order to experience the world from the vantage point of an insect. Fun stuff. Worth a look for a fresh perspective on how we interact with our environment.

Another “TED-like” talk came from Lisa Strausfeld who is designer and one of the world’s foremost authorities in the visualization of data. Access to vast amounts of data is becoming more commonplace and the current challenge is making sense of that data in a way that engages the people who can benefit from it. Her current project involves providing access to ongoing political information in way that has the inherent entertainment value of election coverage. The task is to better engage the public in the political process.

Although Natalie and Lisa presented intriguing ideas, the show was very much stolen John Picard. John is an architect (John Picard and Associates) and entrepreneur who has long been at the forefront of the sustainable design movement. He gave an impassioned talk on the “what’s next?” of our industry. He contends that Silicon Valley is on the brink of a rebirth and that the sector being targeted is Energy Efficiency for Buildings.

John listed off a handful of companies already involved in ground breaking work that promises to revolutionize the way we gain and process information from our buildings. Companies like Cypress Envirosystems who is developing clamp-in-place metering technology that will allow existing systems to be cost effectively retrofitted for monitoring. Of course he heralded SCIenergy (described in the Oct 6th Greenbuild post) for its innovations in mining the “fifth fuel” as they call it. Picard calls it “Information Energy” and he proposes to take it a step further.

He briefly explained his most recent project, which proposes to build on the ongoing advances in energy monitoring and analysis tools and to then go public with the data. What he described is somewhat akin to the Facebook of energy. Imagine a set of tools that easily makes building information accessible, understandable, and informative. And then imagine what could be possible if the sum of that data (and its analysis) was accessible to everyone. Building performance and efficiency information at an interactive level at the scale of Facebook or Google - that’s the vision. Exciting stuff, and you couldn’t help but share in his enthusiasm during the talk.


So, Greenbuild ends on an incredibly upbeat note! Thanks goes to Toronto and the CaGBC for making the first Greenbuild Conference outside the US a huge success.

Time to take the knowledge that was gained home and put it to work!

Gregory Brokaw