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BuildingEnergy Boston 2016 Conference Highlights

John Abrams, CEO of South Mountain Company, speaking at BE15

John Abrams, CEO of South Mountain Company, speaking at BE15

By Matt Root, CLEAResult

BuildingEnergy Boston has the reputation of being a residentially focused conference and trade show. Given NESEA’s roots of solar installers and single family home builders this image is understandable. However, it has long since expanded to include larger buildings and systems, or, as one session this year puts it, projects that are “bigger than a breadbox.” Attending this conference has become a critical experience for commercial and institutional professionals committed to improving the end product they deliver.

One of the greatest draws is the community. I do not emphasize this aspect in a Kumbaya way. I use the word in the context of a professional network that is committed to excellence. No single person can know everything that must be done to make a job successful. We all need trustworthy partners with different skill sets who are committed to building better buildings. That community is at BuildingEnergy Boston, and it grows incredibly over the course of the three days.

The name of the conference may be BuildingEnergy Boston, but it is about so much more than just buildings. Attendees will also learn how to build stronger communities, plan for future disruptions, and understand the concept of resiliency through a number of highly-anticipated sessions.

  • “Cradle to Grave: The Concealed Energy, Carbon and Water Impact of Buildings” will explore the great opportunity to improve sustainability by expanding our lens beyond operational consumption and looking at building life cycles: material production, transport, construction waste, maintenance, and disposal.
  • “Buildings Are Not Enough: An Introduction to High-Performance Cities and the Next Step” is a session that will expand our thinking beyond the lot line. Buildings work in the context of a network and this session will go beyond “high-performance buildings” to “high-performance municipalities.”
  • “Mainstreaming Resilience: Making Resilient Design Part Standard Practice” will focus on resilient design in building codes, zoning bylaws, and voluntary building rating systems.

Net Zero Energy (NZE) is also a hot topic, and as a general concept seems relatively easy. But if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. Multiple sessions this year are addressing NZE in commercial buildings. I am excited about these sessions because they are delivered by practitioners struggling with the same issues I am struggling with in my projects:

  • “The Challenges of Net Zero Energy When It’s Bigger than a Breadbox” will employ a case study of a 190,000 square foot public school to explore what worked, what didn’t, and why.
  • “Getting to Zero: User Engagement in Achieving Net Zero Energy Buildings” will address how design teams can include occupants to drive down energy consumption and support the NZE target.
  • “Aiming at Zero: The Struggle to Get There” will focus on process and an iterative planning and design approach applied at two academic institution projects.
  • “Instructions NOT Included: lessons learned operating zero net energy” will use real data from measurement and verification reports on a NZE bank branch to show how to create a highly functional facility management partnership.

A key attribute of all these sessions is that BuildingEnergy Boston speakers know the details and share their failures, and successes. We learn best from mistakes and from those who have already gone through the growth of a hard lesson so that others don’t have to. There is a lot of great commercial and institutional content delivered by leading experts who share with refreshing honesty so that all in the field might improve.

I hope to see you at BuildingEnergy Boston, March 8-10 (or at BuildingEnergy NYC in the fall).

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