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President Obama, Carbon Calculators and Lean Construction: What We Saw at Greenbuild 2019 in Atlanta

Last month in Atlanta, we joined with customers and partners at Greenbuild, the world’s largest annual conference and expo for the green building industry. When chatting with the more than 20,000 attendees, touring the expo hall and listening to sessions, it was clear that the industry sees the direct correlation between sustainability and positive business outcomes.

Sustainability goals, practices and approaches aren’t just good for people and the planet, they’re good for business. We came away inspired by the industry’s dedication and innovative approaches to sustainable building design and construction and a better understanding of how technology can support their journey. If you didn’t get the chance to attend, here are my favorite moments from the event:

Photo Credit: Oscar & Associates

President Obama’s Keynote: Greenbuild kicked off with an energizing keynote conversation with President Barack Obama, who’s a long-standing supporter of the green building community. He spoke about critical issues facing society today and reflected on life since leaving the White House. He explained how climate change is the most pressing issue we face today, and described the complex way that it impacts the economy: “It is harder to figure out how we solve sustainability issues and deal with climate change if you also have huge gaps in wealth, opportunity and education. We’re not going to solve the former if we are not also attending to the latter.”

When asked about his post-presidency experience, he answered with an enthusiastic, “It’s great!”, drawing laughs from the crowd. While he said they’re glad to be done with “the fuss—the trumpets, and the salutes and the pomp and the circumstance,” he admitted to occasionally missing Air Force One: “That plane’s got a shower. It’s nice.”

President Obama’s opening remarks set the tone for the rest of Greenbuild, bringing hope, a sense of urgency and some much-needed levity in a time of uncertainty. This energy rippled throughout the event, sparking conversations and creating a buzz on the exposition floor.

Tony Saracino, Sr. Sustainability Success Manager, Autodesk, demonstrates the EC3 tool for measuring embodied carbon in building materials at the Autodesk booth at Greenbuild 2019

Read more about embodied carbon from the Carbon Leadership Forum

Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) Debut: Greenbuild 2019 also marked the launch of the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3), an open-source tool designed to measure embodied carbon in building materials. As a lead sponsor of the project, Autodesk recognizes the need to help our customers build sustainably. The industry is expanding beyond energy efficiency and renewables to better address the carbon emissions of materials going into buildings. With 2 trillion additional square feet of building space needed between now and 2060, you can see why this was such a hot topic.

The EC3 tool empowers architects, engineers, and contractors to make informed choices by selecting materials that have the lowest impact to our climate – providing transparency for a more sustainable built environment. You can read more about it here.

Rachel Rosenkrantz, Sr. Manager, Services Programs, Autodesk, presents on sustainable construction at the Autodesk booth at Greenbuild 2019

Collaboration, Transparency and Communication: Transparency of information across stakeholders and smooth project delivery were also hot topics at this year’s event. Propelled by the ability to work in a 3D Building Information Model (BIM), companies are exploring new ways to maximize the value of BIM to move more seamlessly from building design to construction.

One key player addressing collaboration at Greenbuild was PlanGrid, an Autodesk company. Now a part of the Autodesk Construction Cloud, PlanGrid demonstrated ways that teams can easily and effectively work together from anywhere on any device, streamlining construction, communication and operations.

Learn more about lean construction from Autodesk customer BAM Ireland

Lean Construction: Greenbuild 2019 marked the first-ever panel session on Lean Construction—an approach to driving efficiencies and communication in construction planning with goals to minimize waste, cost and delays —  featuring Autodesk Consulting, Dodge Data & Analytics and Balfour Beatty. Lean construction is clearly a hot topic– the room was so packed that people were standing in the back. The audience got insights on how technology can have an impact on sustainable construction through lean practices, prefabrication, and modular building techniques.

I was truly captivated by President Obama’s remarks and the spell it seemed to cast upon the conference. It was also so rewarding to see the EC3 tool come to life!.Technology can help customers design and construct more sustainable solutions, while simultaneously driving positive business outcomes. Conversations at Greenbuild showed both urgency and optimism and I’m hopeful the industry leaders at this event and beyond can continue to work together to build a more sustainable future.