Greenbuild has grown in 10 years to become a prominent event in the plumbing-and-heating industry.

Greenbuild’s show floor in Toronto.


Greenbuild has grown in 10 years to become a prominent event in the plumbing-and-heating industry. Here are three helpful suggestions for the U.S. Green Building Council to make the event better.

1. Focus on the U.S.

Held Oct. 4-7 in Toronto, Greenbuild 2011 took a step back in attendance this year. The USGBC announced 5,000 fewer people attended the event compared with last year in Chicago. The USGBC didn’t help matters by taking Greenbuild north of the border. The location became a factor for people who decided to stay home this year.

Part of their decision came down to the U.S. economy. Some potential exhibitors also believed their costs would be higher and the logistics more complicated at a trade show in Canada.

Carrying a passport and clearing Customs concerned people who otherwise might have attended. Although I had dismissed these worries initially, I found plenty of time to reconsider them during the four hours I stood in lines at Toronto’s airport. Security screeners staged “unlawful strike activities,” according to one local news source, to protest changes in their work schedules.

The USGBC had no way of knowing the labor slowdown would occur during Greenbuild. And the organization had to believe the U.S. economic recovery would be further along when it put Toronto on the schedule. Still, I couldn’t help but think a U.S. city would have benefited from whatever economic shot in the arm Greenbuild could have provided it this year.

2. Focus on the message

At Greenbuild’s opening ceremony, Kohler Co. President David Kohler said a strategy that integrates business and environmental principles is the only strategy for the road ahead.

“There are business opportunities in green,” he said. Kohler said his company’s fastest-growing product lines are ones that conserve water without sacrificing design and performance.

Keynote speaker Thomas Friedman picked up that message when he said, “You can make a good living doing good things.” Friedman went on to say that the green movement needs a price signal.

 “Price matters,” Friedman said. “When gas was $4.50 or $5 a gallon, you couldn’t buy a Toyota Prius. When gas was $2 a gallon, you couldn’t sell a Prius. Without a price signal, you do not get long-term consumer demand.”

3. Focus on core supporters

Following his keynote address, Friedman joined a panel discussion, which took place on a stage set up on the floor of a sports arena that normally hosts hockey and basketball. Most attendees sat in stadium seats and on chairs on or around the arena floor. Others listened from suites where parties were going on for invited Greenbuild guests.

Or weren’t listening. Noise drifting down from the upper-level suites distracted the panelists who interrupted their discussion several times to ask for quiet so they could be heard.

When I looked around me from my third-row seat, I noticed most of the people on the arena floor were engaged in the issues being discussed by the panelists. It struck me that the panelists should be paying more attention to the people hearing their message.

People will buy into green buildings in varying degrees. Deserving the most attention are those who most want to advance the green building movement.

Links