On the road to Boston, a look back at WaterBuild 2016

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WaterBuild 2016, the Water Summit at Greenbuild, kicked off its first of a three-year program series last year in Los Angeles. As we gear up for the 2017 Summit in Boston on November 7, here’s a look back at WaterBuild 2016.

“Water, water everywhere…”

A more sustainable built environment can address myriad water issues, from quality to quantity to equitable access. As 2016 summit keynote speaker Dr. Michael Webber said, our world is built around needing the right amount of water in the right place, at the right temperature, at the right time. Having too much, too little or water at the wrong time or in the wrong phase (ice, not water—or water, not ice), can create big, expensive and often energy-intensive consequences.

Eighteenth-century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge shared wise words in his “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” writing “Water, water, everywhere, / Nor any drop to drink.” The 2016 summit launched in a similar context, on the coast of the Pacific ocean, but in the midst of California’s historic drought.

Consequently, a number of discussions at the summit focused on water scarcity and how green buildings and infrastructure can help. Greenbuild 2016 also purchased Water Restoration Certificates to offset water use at the Los Angeles convention center and created a water footprint for the conference, tracking consumption from food, hotels, paper, freight fuel and venues (read more about the greening of Greenbuild 2016).

Three years of WaterBuild

WaterBuild 2016 convened changemakers in Los Angeles to workshop ideas, discuss challenges and inspire solutions for reducing water use, providing healthy drinking water and managing for water resilience. USGBC’s Chief of Engineering, Brendan Owens, introduced the summit series by detailing how WaterBuild will explore ways in which the green building industry can spur more meaningful transformation in important areas of water quality, access, efficiency and abundance.

Webber’s upbeat keynote presentation covered the gamut of water constraints and connections between energy, infrastructure and society. He gave a hopeful outlook on long-term sustainability through better water policy and pricing, collaborative integrated planning and appropriate technology deployment.

After three engaging educational sessions, the 200+ participants convened for lunch and to admire the work of the Land Art Generator Initiative, which uses public art to help the public experience water and energy infrastructure in new and beautiful ways.

At this first of three WaterBuild summits, a few dozen participants joined a unique local issue charrette. USGBC and the USGBC Los Angeles community teamed up with L.A. county and city leadership to explore policy solutions toward net-zero water. Future WaterBuild summits will repeat this opportunity to roll up your sleeves and dive into the details of a local water issue.

In a parallel track, WaterBuild featured a first-ever Pecha Kucha session. Eight presenters deftly raced through rapid-fire presentations covering topics of water quality, quantity, equity, policy, industry and equity. One presenter told a heartfelt story from Flint, Michigan, later covered in a USGBC+ article. Another highlight was an abridged version of the presenter’s TED Talk. Still another, by our beloved colleague, the late Bill Worthenfocused on on-site water treatment.

At the end of the day, WaterBuild participants joined hundreds of others for a combined closing plenary to conclude the day with celebration and make a tribute to President Obama’s eight years of leadership on green building, climate and sustainability.

Reconvening in Boston

On November 7, we’ll convene again for the second event in the WaterBuild series. This year’s focus is water resilience, so we’ll see additional attention to water-related opportunities in technology, policy and infrastructure. The format will be very much like 2016’s WaterBuild Summit, including keynotes, a practical charrette for a development site in Boston, educational sessions and the Pecha Kucha sessions, which will have even more focus of achieving ongoing impact.

USGBC staff and the volunteer organizing committee have come together to plan another impactful day that gives attendees the knowledge and ability to make positive change. 

I am honored to be part of WaterBuild 2017, as a member of the LEED Water Technical Advisory Group, my colleagues and I work to leverage our collective knowledge to contribute to one of the world’s most amazing instruments for change. We have a lot of momentum to continue to build upon, and our water future has not yet been written. Let’s write it together. I invite you to join us on our WaterBuild journey.

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