The End of the Beginning: Farewell from Greenbuild

by Bill Valentine, Chairman, HOK:

Hi everybody. Here are some final reflections from
Greenbuild as I wait to board the plane back to San Francisco.

My friend Marvin Malecha is the 2009 president of the AIA,
but I know him best as the dean of the College of Design at North Carolina
University, where, once upon a time, I went to school. As Marvin introduced one
of this morning’s speakers, I was struck by his comment that working together
worldwide will amplify all our efforts in the environmental movement. There’s a
staggering amount of truth to this idea.

Before Al Gore spoke on
Wednesday night, the USGBC’s Rick Fedrizzi got the crowd fired up about the
environmental movement. People from all over the world — Germany, England,
Italy, Brazil, India, South Africa and Australia — took turns standing on these
tall podiums to talk about what they were doing to adopt USGBC standards and
strategies while tailoring them to their countries. The dream is becoming
reality! The USGBC is igniting a movement that stretches far beyond US borders.

I know our culture at HOK has been made incredibly rich by
our people in Canada, the UK and Asia. Experiencing how they think and design
has taught us so much. The same is true for the sustainable design movement.
The diversity we’re seeing in the USGBC’s people and programs is making all our
environmental efforts that much more effective.

There was a lot of discussion
at Greenbuild about social ideas, and how sustainability can be affordable and
can improve the lives of the common man and woman. These are completely
different conversations than what some might expect to hear from architects.
Almost universally, the focus here in Phoenix has been not on glitzy design,
but on soulful, helpful ideas. I’m so thankful for that.

The speaker I saw today, Ulf Meyer from Kansas State
University, made the connection between happiness and sustainability. Clearly
it’s true that sustainability makes us happy. You’re breathing better air, you’re
enjoying more natural light, you’re living in a world that’s less polluted —
the list goes on. And because we aspire to make a sustainable world simpler and
more affordable, the hope is that people will be able to spend more time and
money doing what makes them happy.

It has been fantastic to see so
many interesting speakers and friends. But one of my favorite experiences was when I got to sit down in a quiet section of the convention center floor with about 30 of our HOK
people. Their average age is about 30, and they came to Greenbuild from our
offices all over the U.S. and in Hong Kong, London and Toronto. We talked about
what we were learning and where we need to go from here. I'm inspired by the
notion that these passionate young people will be the ones driving us all into
a sustainable future. There was so much enthusiasm and they shared so many good ideas. It
was quite touching.

Phoenix was a wonderful place to hold the convention. The weather,
people and facility all were great (So were the Arizona wines!). Overall, there
was a nice, friendly vibe in the city. It was nice to see Phoenix using its downtown
renaissance for good advantage.

I’d like to thank everyone I encountered in Phoenix and at
Greenbuild for their hospitality. Thanks to Jennifer at Contract for this high-tech soapbox, and thanks to all you readers. This has been fun.

Now it’s time for us to take what we have learned and been
inspired by at Greenbuild and keep pushing the sustainable movement forward. As
I like to ask my colleagues: If we don’t, who will?

Take care,


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