Why Sustainable Building Week Matters (To Me, and To You!)

By September 12, 2019 No Comments

Portland has a long history as a hub for Hippies and an incubator of Green innovators. Well before either
of those were cool (“Keep Portland Weird” is a thing for a reason). Now that Hippies have morphed into
Hipsters, and Green has branched off into many things (including Sustainability & Resiliency), the need
for a week to bring the disparate, but equally impressive, folks on all sides together is truly vital. Back
when I was in design school in the early 2000’s in San Francisco, I was in the inaugural class to graduate
with a Green Design emphasis. I flew up to Oregon to attend the USGBC’s GreenBuild Conference in
Portland in 2004. This was a pivotal moment for me and for the Sustainable Building movement in
Portland. For Portland it brought over 8000 professionals here to showcase how and why Portland was leading the way in all things Green. For me, it was incredibly inspiring and fully solidified my commitment to being a part of designing and building for a better world.

Let’s take a quick step further back to understand what sustainable building even is before discussing
where it’s going and what it means to we Portlandians today. . . . In 1987 the United Nations World
Commissions on Environment and Development published a report titled, “Our Common Future”. In it,
the authors defined Sustainability as: development that meets the needs of the present, without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Over the past three decades,
sustainability has evolved into a noble buzzword and the active green movement ranges from
conservation of materials to development of non-harmful new materials, from climate change recourse
to biodiversity & even biomimicry. In essence, sustainability is all about protecting nature and the
environment from human endeavors.

However, who protects humans from Mother Nature? This is the heart of the Building Resilience and
Wellness movements that have really come to the fore in only the last couple of years. In Oregon we’ve
had a surge of preparing for the Big One. Those recent earthquakes in Southern California were a stark
reminder of the importance of being well prepared. Very little damage and therefore very little waste
came of those fairly large seismic events. Whereas in Oregon, we would likely see a much larger cleanup
and much more expensive (in dollars and in lives) consequence if we hit the same level on the Richter
Scale. And when it comes to Wellness – that is another buzz word that seems to be on everyone’s mind.

How can we develop spaces that aren’t just neutral but contribute to our well being and health?? Being health conscious & wanting our built surroundings to reflect and/or harness nature are far from a “Weird Hippie” concept these days. People will put significant time & money into ensuring their workplaces and homes are healthy, safe, and as future proof as possible.

Recalling that huge GreenBuilding Conference years ago, I thought if we had a version here that was for and by our own local talent, and happened on the regular, we could really reinvigorate the whole Green Movement. Low and behold last year, Sustainable Building Week was launched, and it truly felt like fate! My company joined at the Harvester level and had an incredible experience hosting as well as attending many quality events. Sustainable Building Week {SBW} was formed with the goal of bringing together Green Industry Experts and Sustainability Enthusiasts during one dedicated time to share ideas, show off what has been done, and explore how to better progress into the future. Ultimately, it’s all about keeping Portland on the top of the Sustainability Movement in North America. When we come together and collaborate, we all rise-up and benefit. We don’t need to be doing our great work in silos to make the greatest strides. I came to SBW’s Board of Directors for that exact reason. I felt like the offsite construction world was off in its own silo and very few people fully understood what it was or why it is so vital to the sustainable building narrative. I also didn’t feel like I had a great grasp on the incredible work other design/build professionals were doing in our region. But most importantly, I am passionate about leaving a better world than I’ve been given, and I know it takes a vast village to do that. That’s where all of you come in! I’m super excited to immerse myself in what SBW 2.0 has to offer this October and look forward to meeting with you, learning with you, and growing with you into the next phase of Portland’s greatness in all things Green!

Authored by Angela Glatz, GRIT Building Solutions, Co-Executive Director of Sustainable Building Week