Friday, February 13, 2009

Better Buildings 2009, Hope in the Green Valley of Vermont

Yesterday I attended and participated in Efficiency Vermonts Better Buildings Conference 2009 held at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in Burlington, VT.  

And it was a fantastic, heartwarming event.  Here's why.  It was crowded, really crowded.  It was filled with a sense of optimism and people coming together whom are participating in the Green Design Movement in our region.  Like the USGBC's Greenbuild 2008 conference held in Boston last November, it was experiencing another bump in attendance from the already great numbers from last year.

Unlike other conferences held in the last 6 months by more normative, non-green construction related organizations, this one was healthily attended, heavily sponsored with plenty of exhibitors on the trade floor.  

 The plenary speech session was kicked off by Scott Johnstone, executive diretor for Vermont Energy Investment Corporation.  (VEIC).  He set the groundwork for the conference where he shared the results of Efficiency Vermont's efforts in helping change the energy use and efficiency game in Vermont.  Our State is now a leader in the nation with (-1.5%) negative electricity load growth rather than postive which is the norm around the U.S.  Our state is seeing a trend in electrical load decrease due to growing energy efficiency efforts in the residential and business / institutional marketplace.   For example, last year Scott said 780,000 CFL's (compact flourescent light bulbs) replaced old fashioned incadescent bulbs around the State.   By helping lower the costs to Vermonters for purchasing CFL's statewide through retail programs, more bulbs were installed.  Efficiency Vermont's Big Thinking produced Big Results.

Scott said the challenge ahead for our State is to expand or go wider with the penetration of energy efficiency and energy conservation measures and go deepr with more substantial negative load growth in the coming years.  Along with that we must continue the transformation of our fossil fuel based economy transitioning towards heavier use of renewable energy sources. Vermont, while small, has a spirited history of yankee ingenuity and rising to the occasion during tough times.  

 The keynote speaker, Fernando Paige Ruiz also reinforced this notion sharing how he sees how Vermont's innovation stacks up against other states around the nation.  He said Vermonters are amazing that we save almost 2% a year in lowered electricty usage.  Most states claim this is impossible, it can't be done, but we're showing it can be done.  

Fernando discussed his approach of building an affordable house and a practical way of thinking about design and ecology.  He discussed how homeowners want affordable construction and likewise affordable operation in their homes.  Key concerns of a majority of homeowners were energy costs, durability and flexibility of the smaller home he is building.  Building size, shape, simplicity of construction, flexible for future layout changes and a sense of thrift while maintaining quality were all important factors.  He had some very interesting ideas about marketing and for example seeing projects as "demonstration or model project" worth sharing with others along the way during construction to help spread the word about the unique qualities about green building. 

It was another great conference! Look for most posts in the coming days about the conference.   

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