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Keith Curtis is a senior Foreign Service Officer currently based in the U.S. Commercial Service’s Office of International Operations. He is the Commercial Service’s senior advisor on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Reaching the Green Goal, the Commercial Service’s Greenbuild Road Show has arrived at its final destination: the Greenbuild Conference and Expo, the country’s largest sustainable building event based in Phoenix this year. This wildly popular event is hosting 1,800 exhibitors and expected to attract upwards of 25,000 of visitors over the next three days. At its pre-show program, delegations from 90 countries came to International Day, creating the “buzz heard ‘round the world” about Green Buildings. CS Abu Dhabi Senior Commercial Officer Laurie Farris brought a delegation of 95 buyers and planners ready to build green in the Middle East, which was the largest group among the dozens of countries present.
As part of the educational program designed for the hundreds of international buyers, Paris SCO Dan Harris moderated a panel on retrofitting buildings to lower their carbon footprint and enhance their green credentials. Here we are now down to the core of the core of the immediate problem. From the speakers on this panel we learned an incredible amount: 40 per cent of Green House Gas (GHG) comes from buildings; 70% of our electricity is used in buildings; and, the low hanging fruit of GHG mitigation can come from increasing efficiency in buildings –the kicker is that these reductions come at cost savings, so whether you believe in climate change or not, it makes sense. Dan’s panel pointed out the next step; this problem is not going to be solved by new buildings because the turnover takes too long. Most of our buildings are “old” and will remain that way for a while. But we can put new “skins“ on buildings, and we can “green” existing buildings, like the Clinton Climate Initiative is doing with the Empire State Building. And, the most important thing we learned – the final point beyond the point – is that in the end it comes around to the people in the buildings, because green buildings have to be used right or they are no good. Green buildings are performing way below expectations, it turns out, because of improper use. So monitoring becomes key, as are systems that tell you how the building is performing in actual use, and what you need to correct. Now, here at the Greenbuild Expo, it seems we are arriving at the set of solutions needed to really address climate change.
And the buzz is building and building. We started the day at the office of the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Scottsdale which has a growing set of export-ready clients – our European SCOs reached out to these Phoenix-area companies from a wide range industries who are interested in the European markets; some of these folks later joined us at the Greenbuild show to check out the excitement. As the International Day seminars came to a close and the Show officially opened in the evening, gleaming with beautiful carpets and a feast of food and drink, we started meeting a host of U.S. firms who hold the solutions to mitigating climate change and enhancing energy efficiency. These are the companies we want to help introduce to international markets. Now we look forward to a whirlwind of buzz as we head toward the penultimate events of the tour.