By Brandolon Barnett     

Architect Thom Mayne during his lecture on Day 1 of the 2011 Sustainabilty Showcase in Dallas. What was in store for Day 2?

Sustainability Conference: Day 2

Day 2 of the 2011 Sustainability Showcase was as enlightening as the first, if considerably less philosophically inclined. On Day 1 Pritzker prize winning architect Thom Mayne, in his keynote address, jokingly inquired into whether or not a 7am conference start was a “Texas thing”. Whether or not it is, there everyone was bright and early. From firestone and dozens of small “green” startups in the exhibition hall to a wide sleight of additional guest speakers and my sleepy head, the early start was no obstacle to a second day of immersion in sustainable design.

8:00am –Howard Garrett aka the “Dirt Doctor”

This was my introduction to the more-complicated-than-I-imagined world of organic gardening. The Dirt Doctor, as he’s called, is a media personality with a passion for organic alternatives to chemicals popularly used in farming and gardening. The hour was a journey through case studies offered as evidence of the advantage of organic over inorganic methods. I would have been interested in hearing more about the data and research behind the basic assumption of the superiority of organic (if anyone’s interested in having a conversation about this, feel free to comment here or head over to our Facebook page). Even without this, however, it was interesting to get a run through of the various case studies and especially the home remedies.

For those unaware of the recommendations of the Dirt Doctor or the nature of organic gardening/farming, these solutions include the use of dried molasses as a fertilizer and organic vinegar as pesticide. The solutions were all quite innovative, and the idea that organic farming can produce equal results for equal or less dollars (i.e. savings on water usage) is tantalizing to say the least.

10:00am – Jim Phillips – Conducting Your Own Energy Audit

This hour was all about the practice of the energy audit. As someone who lives in an apartment and prefers to rent (as many do in this economy), I must say I found it simultaneously enlightening and discouraging. The enlightening bits all shed a bright 10,000 watt spotlight on how little most of us know about how energy, particularly the energy economy of the US, works. For example, just FYI if you’re paying sales tax on a home energy bill you have a right to a refund of up to 4 years of those fees. Along with the assortment of tools required (cheaper than I’d imagined…) and the extensive process of the energy audit, the biggest takeaway is for anyone planning to engage in an energy audit to be prepared to act on the results of the process. It can be painstaking and you don’t want to waste your time. As an apartment dweller I found myself wishing I could fully engage in this process.Yet not only are bills not as detailed, the opportunities to increase efficiency are also similarly limited. I suppose there are tradeoffs but it’s an interesting discussion.

11:00am – Kenneth Simpson – LEED Project Success 

There was quite a bit of focus throughout the conference on LEED training (by the way for those interested LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. More about the certification program and its history can be found at the site of the US Green Building Council - USGBC) I thought I might as well learn a bit more about the process, which seems to be a big driver for energy efficient or “green” design throughout the US. This was an hour of a representative from the Green Building Certification Institute discussing how and why design teams do or do not or can or cannot receive credits toward LEED certification. For someone not directly involved in the industry it wasn’t the most exciting hour. Still, I found it fascinating to witness the hoops that teams are leaping through to gain this certification.

3:00 PM Tour of the City of Dallas Performing Arts Center Under Construction led by Zaida Basora and Kirk Johnson

All Day – The Exhibition Hall

Lecturers came and went, but the exhibition hall trucked along all day. For those who’ve not been to one of these conferences (it was my first), just know that there’s a whole “green world” out there. It’s full of company’s you probably never heard of and products that you might not care to know about (check out the list of exhibitors) I suppose the same could be said about any conference. Yet given the hooplah in political circles about the importance of green business to America's future - the same companies and products peppering the 17th floor of this downtown Dallas high rise - it was fascinating to witness. As I walked the stalls I couldn’t help but get the impression that if you don’t know what’s going on in this industry you’re really missing out. My mind kept going back to a lecturer who compared the growth of green business to the computer revolution. Politics aside, there certainly seem to be enough people believing in the potential of "green" that they’ve created a group of businesses and communities actively engaged in changing the way design and…life…get done. That’s what Green Source DFW is all about yet it's always great to see it come to life.

The Green Council (USGBC North Texas Chapter), the CSI (Construction Sprecification Institute) Dallas Chapter, and Dallas AIA’s (American Institute of  Architects) Committee on the Environmenthave joined together to host this showcase of the latest green building products, technologies and knowledge for commercial and residential use.