The SBC Blog: GBF 2017 – Changing the Paradigm . . . Again

Looking back on a conference is a lot like looking back on a wedding. A conference requires upfront commitment from the parties involved, followed by months of planning, a flurry of outreach, the hype, management of vital details, and of course significant costs paid upfront. Then the “day of” arrives and it’s over in a seeming flash. But that‘s where the similarities end.

I note three key differences, however. First, the “day of” is not at all a blur. I remember vividly the sessions. Second, I suffered no post-event deflation with this major event in the history books. And third (maybe the most insightful), I want to do it all over again next year.

After 12 years putting on GBF, SBC has witnessed highs and lows in a sector not known for lightning progress or innovation, and many have remarked that talk about developments in sustainable development have been, well, mostly talk.

But things have changed. And GBF 2017 presenters really brought it home to me. I really felt the reasons are plentiful. 15 years ago, a respected industry colleague and ESCO engineer noted that a $15,000 Honda Civic had more brains than a $20 million dollar new office building. With that as a backdrop, I listened with fascination to the inner workings of this building they call the Edge. Part organism, part eco-system, adaptive, responsive, and even predictive. Oh yes, and it is not a PowerPoint pipe dream, it has been built. And it has completely reset the boundaries for the realm of the possible and has defined a new paradigm for how humans interact with building environments and conduct their working lives. Symbiosis between person and machine.

As always (I believe), GBF17 was a forum for advanced and provocative ideas. It was also, more than ever, a showcase for ground-breaking projects constructed, barriers overcome and pre-conceived notions obliterated. It seems that it was just a few years ago that there was this novel concept of building taller structures with wood permeating the building community. How can that be? Success from the wood lobbyists, perhaps? Maybe… Practical? Questionable (yes, I’m an engineer). But if you apply the carbon filter, it’s genius considering some +/- 3% of the world’s GHG emissions come from cement production. And we heard about the 17 storey success story in Vancouver along with the real-world implications.

And then there is the technology driven innovation of renewable electricity production, smart micro-grid systems that enhance resilience and safety, and low voltage networks that slash transformation losses and feed an increasingly DC world.

These are all great success stories of projects that have been built. But they are also indicators of how far and quickly we have moved past the aspirational phase to the action phase.

If GBF17 has left me with one lingering thought, it is that the climate has really changed. And I don’t mean the weather.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Sustainable Buildings Canada, staff, and the organizing committee, I extend my sincere thanks to our presenters for sharing their passion and personal brands and engaging a record number of GBF delegates in this vital conversation. There was as energy in the air. And underpinning this lofty platform was a collaboration of partners and sponsors whose leadership sees the value and critical importance of investing to bring together industry stakeholders to plot a sustainable path forward. We are so grateful for your support.

I look forward to seeing you all (and more) at GBF2018.

A la prochaine,

Constantine Eliadis