Key Takeaways from Greenbuild 2023

Ten dedicated BranchPattern team members had an incredible time connecting with fellow sustainability experts at the renowned 2023 Greenbuild International Conference + Expo. With thousands of sustainability professionals in one place, Greenbuild is the largest sustainable building event in the United States, and BranchPattern was proud to be a sponsor. Our team attended accredited education sessions where they immersed themselves in tactical information on the most cutting-edge sustainability trends and gained hands-on experience with new technology in the Expo Hall.

The breadth of topics covered, and the ample networking opportunities fed our team’s insatiable curiosity, making this conference more impactful than ever – and we should know as we have attended every year since its inception!

The team is abuzz with excitement from the valuable insights they gained. Each attendee has returned to work with a renewed commitment to our mission, ready to supercharge BranchPattern’s efforts in sharing industry-leading sustainability knowledge within the organization and with our valued clients.

In this blog, two of our attendees, Practice Leads Kristy Walson and Sarah Gudeman, expand on topics that piqued their interest. Read on for their key takeaways:

1. Whole Carbon Balance

The comprehensive assessment and management of the carbon emissions associated with building projects remains a hot topic for the green movement, and BranchPattern continues to emphasize that “true sustainability” requires collaboration and effort as a collective to address “all the carbons,” both operational and embodied, when it comes to buildings.

LEED® v5

On Day 1 of the conference, Kristy Walson and Sarah Gudeman participated in LEED® Committee Meetings. These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss essential LEED® topics, including how to bridge the gap between the future of LEED® and the realities of LEED® v5 for both O+M and BD+C. LEED® v5 is the next step in innovation for LEED®, and the USGBC states, “LEED® v5 is built around a restructured LEED® rating system framework, at the top of which are the system goals: climate action, quality of life, and ecological conservation and restoration. These are the overarching areas of focus that will guide the next several versions of the rating system and will also serve as the mechanism for prioritizing the way project teams are rewarded for pursuing various strategies.”

“The concept of ‘all the carbons’ left me thinking about the interconnectedness of our efforts. When we design for carbon reduction, we need to understand the entire carbon balance.”

Kristy Walson, Building Performance Modeling Practice Lead

“All the Carbons”

Carbon was a recurring theme in the ESG panel conversation (addressing emission pricing and conducting carbon audits) and in numerous sessions covering topics such as grid emissions metrics, material-related emissions, decarbonization throughout the product life-cycle, refrigerants, and ecological footprint.

By designing with a focus on the impact of buildings, our Building Performance Modeling and Materials teams showcase the possibilities of low-carbon solutions. In an effort to empower owner-operators to continually monitor energy and emissions and help ensure ongoing benchmarking and tracking, BranchPattern enters the design process early. We establish carbon emissions budgets and targets on a holistic level through collaboration, effectively providing a roadmap from conceptual design to substantial completion.

Delving into the intricacies of embodied and operational carbon emissions, especially in retrofitting existing structures, reveals fascinating intersections. For instance, when optimizing the trade-off between increased embodied carbon in new wall insulation and the subsequent operational carbon savings from enhanced energy efficiency, a close examination of the net carbon cost becomes essential. The team is poised to assume a leadership role in piloting and comparing novel carbon accounting standards, harmonizing results at a building level, and seamlessly integrating these findings into corporate ESG and sustainability reporting efforts.

A shared commitment to carbon reduction is forged by cultivating close collaboration with clients and stakeholders. Through open dialogue, creative solutions, and effective teamwork, sustainable practices are encouraged across the entire project team and within the commercial real-estate sector, collectively enhancing the industry and preserving our planet. An excellent example of this collaboration and knowledge sharing is evident in the Embodied Carbon White Paper, which illuminates pathways to solving significant carbon challenges.

Recognizing our responsibility to help ensure buildings contribute to, rather than detract from, a sustainable and regenerative future, BranchPattern fully embraces the challenge of holistic carbon reduction at every level, from design and construction to operation. We view this challenge as an opportunity to innovate, inspire, and pave the way towards a regenerative built environment that exceeds expectations.

2. Scale Scale Scale

Scaled decarbonization across building portfolios was another prominent theme. All of us in the industry recognize and are ready to mobilize around the consensus that we need to move fast and move big to meet 2030, 2040, and 2050 targets. The Inflation Reduction Act was a game-changer in the green building movement’s ability to scale. By removing the financial barriers that previously prevented scaling up decarbonization efforts in buildings, the movement has new opportunities to make meaningful progress in reducing emissions in new and existing buildings.

I see the decarbonization of building portfolios as a collective and urgent mission for the CRE industry. By reconciling lofty sustainability goals with actionable plans, we can improve existing assets, track progress, validate utilizing existing green building certifications, and verify our commitments are on track towards a more sustainable future.

Sarah Gudeman, Principal & Building Science Practice Lead

Collaborating for a Sustainable Future

BranchPattern is delighted to collaborate with USGBC on the development and implementation of the “Performance at Scale” project, and we look forward to the future of that effort, which will continue after Greenbuild. At the conference, we celebrated the participants of the Portfolio Accelerator program after the “Green Building at Scale: Accelerating Portfolio-Wide Action and Performance” session. This project starts an essential and much-needed program targeting the gaps between ambitious sustainability targets and the robust and actionable plans necessary to achieve them. This end-to-end solution enables organizations to:

  • Identify, plan and prioritize real actions across diverse building portfolios.
  • Track and measure progress against custom performance goals.
  • Leverage data, analytics and tools to streamline asset-level green building certification and inform sustainability reporting.
  • Provide third-party review and verification from Green Building Certification, Inc. (GBCI), the credible and recognized leader in sustainable real estate.

Final Thoughts

The Greenbuild 2023 conference covered a broad spectrum of topics, including discussions on definitions and policies, the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in achieving emission reduction targets as outlined in the Paris Agreement at COP21 by 2050, tracking Scope 3 emissions, policy considerations, retrofit strategies, shared experiences, available tools and software, and upcoming sustainability trends.

BranchPattern remains deeply committed to promoting true sustainability, emphasizing the importance of addressing operational and embodied carbon emissions. Our Building Performance Modeling and Materials teams will continue to play a pivotal role in demonstrating low-carbon solutions and empowering owners with comprehensive carbon reduction strategies.

The conference also shed light on the urgency of scaled decarbonization. The “Performance at Scale” initiative, bridging the gap between sustainability goals and actionable plans, allows organizations to prioritize actions, track progress, and streamline green building certifications.

In these efforts, we embrace our responsibility to contribute to a sustainable and regenerative future, continually striving to innovate, inspire, and lead the way. The conference provided a platform for industry professionals to unite in the mission to reduce emissions in both new and existing buildings, working collaboratively to create a more sustainable and greener future.

While acknowledging the substantial challenges ahead, the Greenbuild 2023 conference provided our team with valuable insights, fostering collaboration and igniting our inspiration and drive to continue essential sustainability work, now more critical than ever, in scale and urgency. Onward!