Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

A Teaser — Better Buildings by Design 2018 Hit the Target

By Barb and Greg Whitchurch

Better Buildings by Design (BBD), an annual conference held in Burlington and sponsored by Efficiency Vermont, covers residential and commercial building, sustainability, building systems and remote monitoring, lighting, heating and cooling, building standards, construction techniques, regulatory policy, green energy, the latest in building science, energy modeling, and so much more. Presenters and exhibitors come from all over the world. Attendees come from all over North America.

We both attended the keynote address by Dr. John Straub, and Adam Cohen’s presentation on Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), but split up for most of the presentations, so as to cover the most ground.

One of the most fascinating and theoretical presentations was Adam Cohen’s. Adam has a list of credentials, awards, and major “first!” accomplishments as long as your arm. His presentation was titled, “Changing an Industry by Changing Yourself.” He began by talking about how successful he had become in his early construction career by building plain, “crappy” (your standard, run-of-the-mill) houses. During those years, he gradually became enlightened about climate change, and how the built environment contributes to it. In the United States, our built environment accounts for almost half of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) we release, and almost half of all the energy we use. It became obvious to him how he might help fight climate change. And he challenged us to think about how we might also contribute to the slowing of climate change.

He went on to state that, if we were going to survive the existential crisis presented by climate change, we must make big changes, and that we have no choice but to do so — either the changes will be literally forced upon us, or we will anticipate that outcome and choose to act to moderate its effects.

He quoted Wolfgang Feist. “Investing in value instead of energy consumption requires little financial effort, but rather creativity and intelligent solutions.” Dr. Feist is the cofounder of Passive House – the building standard that allows one to toss out the standard heating plant (furnace, boiler, heated floor) even in Fairbanks, Alaska. Passive House provides a complete planning tool that allows one to design their home and know – before ground is broken – just what the energy needs of the building will be. Adam devotes all of his considerable talents to Passive House projects and teaching now.

Adam pointed out that our brains are capable of finding solutions to the problems we’re presenting here, but it takes some training. To support this statement, he quoted Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

One example of a process to slow down climate change is the aforementioned IPD. Such a system leads to fiscal control, which can then make otherwise cost-prohibitive efforts palatable to the general public and funders. IPD provides a series of “locks” during the planning and implementation stages that prevent overruns and mistakes.

Commonly, member groups of a project team become “siloed.” They operate within their specialty (silo) and work on-site in a rather isolated fashion. Adam recognizes that de-siloing allows for a more coordinated, timely, and ultimately successful interaction among the providers. It allows them to communicate about their – often unspoken – expectations of one another; it obviates the conflicts and missteps that often occur when mismatching assumptions collide at the project; and it promotes consensual problem-solving of issues which are often mishandled when assigned to a single specialist.

Adam reminds us that Ban Ki-moon said, “Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth … these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots among climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security, and women’s empowerment. Solutions for one problem must be solutions for all.”

This short introduction does not do justice to Mr. Cohen’s presentation or his idea, we’re a–fraid. He is providing IPD trainings all over the world (

The current issue of G.E.T. is so jam-packed that we can only present what’s above. You can check out many of the presentation slideshows at

Barb and Greg Whitchurch are board members of Vermont Passive House and owners of a net-zero passive house in Middlesex, Vermont. (802) 223-2416.

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