Terry Campbell started his career in the sustainable wood products industry in 2000 and traveled across the country to attend conferences on sustainable design, construction and materials.
The irony wasn't lost on him and his colleagues that they and thousands of other attendees were burning fuel, contributing to carbon emissions and causing additional environmental impacts while traveling to attend conferences on how to improve the environment.
So, when he co-founded Portland's Sustainable Building Week three years ago, Campbell already was thinking about how to develop a conference in which some events could be attended in person while others would be virtual so people in other parts of the country could participate without having to travel. COVID-19 made this year's event an experiment in the all-virtual realm.
"It's challenging, and I miss the interconnectivity with in-person contact, but this year's conference is setting a model where people can attend virtually," said Campbell, director of business development at Sustainable Northwest Wood. "I feel like going forward, and that is something that we're going to want to talk more about."
The all-virtual format also allowed the program to extend from one week to two, eliminating overlapping events and provide a broader audience with the chance to hear and participate in conversations around equity and resiliency in sustainable design and construction.
"This is an opportunity to respond to major headlines facing our region right now, whether that's social justice issues or climate change, and through cross-disciplinary education and connectivity, evolve to build greater equity and resiliency into the work we do as leaders in sustainability," Campbell said.
Between now and Oct. 23, participants can attend more than 25 educational presentations, panels, open houses and an entirely virtual Zero Energy homes tour. Sustainable Building Week kicked off Monday and earlier this week featured a town hall hosted by Sustainable Building for All (SB4A), an effort to create an incentive policy to accelerate climate action in the building industry while centering on equity and racial justice. During the town hall, SB4A members shared their work on a draft policy to be presented to the city and gathered ideas to integrate into the final policy language.
Also, earlier this week, participants had an opportunity to learn more about Argyle Gardens, a new affordable housing development in Portland's Kenton neighborhood, and the project team's approach to creating supportive housing that is equitable, efficient and environmentally responsible.
Webly Bowles, co-creator of Sustainable Building Week, noted that while sustainability practices work to support various social and environmental issues, the recent wind event and forest fires in Oregon are "a wake-up call that the effects of climate change are with us more than ever before.
"Healing our planet starts locally, and at this year's event we're helping to unite our local building and design community in furthering sustainable building practices, which are key to reducing our carbon impact and ensuring a healthier future for our region and our world," Bowles said.
Campbell said that all of the Sustainable Building Week events are being recorded and will be available for free on the nonprofit organization's website. "Another silver lining of COVID and the virtual format is that the sessions will live on. We hope people will leave an event or visit the website later and feel motivated to get more involved."
Sustainable Building Week collaborators come from a variety of disciplines and include AIA Oregon, Build Local Alliance, International Living Future Institute Portland Collaborative, University of Oregon Institute for Health in the Built Environment, Oregon State University Tallwood Design Institute, Portland Green Schools, Portland Materials Transparency Collaborative, Solar Oregon, U.S. Green Building Council, Portland Society of Plumbing Engineers, Electrify Now, Forth Mobility, ReBuilding Center and Zero Energy Ready Oregon.
The not-for-profit event is supported by sponsors that include Mahlum Architects, Hennebery Eddy Architects, Holst Architecture, BORA Architects, PAE Engineers, New Buildings Institute, Sustainable Northwest Wood, Portland General Electric, Associated Builders and Contractors Pacific Northwest, Green Hammer, Project Pivot and Eteriors.
Sustainable Building Week
Some of the week's highlights will include the following. A complete itinerary can be found online (sustainablebuildingweek.com).
Thursday, Oct. 15
It All Starts at School: The Portland Green Schools Committee will host discussions around ways to support greater equity and inclusion in local architecture, engineering and construction industries by building new opportunities in education and training for today's students. This event is presented in partnership with Room for More and AIA Oregon's Committee on Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.
Monday, Oct. 19
Small but Mighty: Innovators from the Portland community will share their stories as small organizations that make a big impact. This event features Eddie Hill with Black Futures Farm; Jennifer Levy with Environmental Clean Up; Ozzie Gonzales, 2020 Portland mayoral candidate; and Eric Corey Freed, sustainability consultant.
Tuesday, Oct. 20
Electrify for a New Tomorrow: Kicking off "Electrification Day," New Buildings Institute (NBI) envisions a future where building electrification technologies reign to help meet local climate goals. NBI will present cutting-edge electric technologies and initiatives that will support the industry's transition to low-carbon building operations.
Wednesday, Oct. 21
Living Building Certification Virtual Open House: Mahlum Architects' studio is a 7,500-square-foot tenant improvement project in the historic 1950s Custom Blocks Building that is the first in Portland to be certified by the Living Building Challenge. In partnership with Perlo Construction and Sustainable Northwest Wood, the team will share details about the project design centered around key themes of place, materials, equity, and beauty.
Go Zero Tour 2020: Residential buildings account for almost a quarter of all energy usage in Oregon, and Zero Energy home design is an important strategy in climate change mitigation. Solar Oregon and Energy Trust of Oregon will host the virtual video tour highlighting multiple Zero Energy homes across the state.
Admission is free for most topics, with fees charged for specialized training or events.
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