Mitigation, Adaptation, and Resilience

Builder.Media is proud to be a media partner of USGBC’s 18th Annual Green Building Conference in Southern California

By Julia Edinger

Each year, green building and sustainability advocates come together in Southern California for USGBC’s annual Municipal Green Building Conference & Expo (MGBCE). It is the largest gathering of industry leaders in the region, which addresses commercial and municipal building, residential building, transitioning to clean energy, and much more. USGBC’s 18th Annual Municipal Green Building Conference & Expo provided climate change solutions for an era in which they are necessary.

Key(note)s to Sustainability

Dr. Chuck Kutscher, PE, Fellow and Senior Research Associate at UC-Boulder, and Former Director of NREL Buildings and Thermal Sciences Center, made the opening keynote speech.

“The question here is, ‘Is 2019 the year we make progress on climate change?’” Kutscher stated, speculating, “I’m optimistic.”

Dr. Chuck Kutscher, PE, Fellow and Senior Research Associate at UC-Boulder, and Former Director of NREL Buildings and Thermal Sciences Center, made the opening keynote speech. Photo Credit: Alex East

In regards to the need for rapid and drastic change, Kutscher cited environmental extremes worldwide, from drought to flooding, while emphasizing the need to lower carbon emissions. Still, he is optimistic for a number of reasons: the number of candidates in the primaries running with climate change solutions as a part of their platform, the emergence of the green new deal resolution and the probability of similar proposals to come, and the growing movement of young people protesting and taking action.

A highlight of the day was having Christine Harada, President of i(x) investments, as a keynote speaker. Christine Harada formerly served as the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer for the Obama administration.

Harada made a strong argument for the need for “First Principles Thinking,” a method of critically thinking about a problem. This strategy involves stripping the problem to its most fundamental components and addressing those first, and then looking at the bigger picture to find solutions from there.

Christine Harada, President of i(x) investment, addressed the event as a keynote speaker. Photo Credit: Alex East

This method of critical thinking allows builders to first work through how any solutions will impact the design, and then ask broader questions about how it may affect the tenants, and even have more long-term impacts.

“You can make good money while doing good things,” Harada stated in her speech. She acknowledged that this increased emphasis on sustainability, while necessary, may cause some discomfort throughout the transition. Harada encouraged embracing that discomfort as part of the evolving process.

Said Harada: “Our collective future depends on us exercising our innovation.”

Sustainability Sessions 

The event included a host of experts who provided insight into the world of green building and clean energy. The topics varied widely, with the common denominator of sustainability. From the role of schools in green building, to strategies to implement in your own projects, to preparing for an unpredictable future, the sessions offered something for everyone in attendance.

Eric Corey Freed, RA, Sustainability Disruptor at Morrison Hershfield, was the afternoon’s keynote speaker. He led a session titled “Building as a Conscious Act: Finding Opportunity in Health, Resiliency, and Community.” The session provided an insightful and entertaining approach to the theme of the day.

“What I’m seeing is a world that desperately needs to be redesigned,” said Freed, citing recent natural disasters, as well as projections for the near future.

Because those effects are now being witnessed firsthand, people are becoming more aware of the effects of climate change and the need for immediate action. Companies are facing legal repercussions for the adverse effects of their actions. The solution involves drastic change, but according to Freed, it is a worthwhile investment. “What we now know is that fixing the problem is a lot cheaper than doing nothing.”

The annual MGBCE is the largest gathering of industry leaders in the region, addressing the intersect between building, energy, and sustainability. Photo Credit: Alex East

He expressed the need for innovation in our solutions and our belief systems as a whole. He identified trees as a deployable technology for capturing and converting carbon. He also explained how cognitive biases can sometimes repress innovation. But conflicts can be opportunities for collaboration, as well, and Freed encourages industry leaders to create a plan for sustainability goals and stick to it.

“It’s up to you to do this,” he challenged attendees. “It’s up to you to make a bold vision.”

Effecting Efficiency

 MGBCE featured a number of exhibitors with sustainable solutions for professionals to use in the field, as well as resources for increased efficiency for the future. Between vertical planters for a new age of urban farming, resources for building to energy efficiency codes, and the latest in sustainable building materials, there were plenty of experts sharing their insights into green building.

The event was an opportunity to discuss every stage of sustainability, from policy to implementation in building. The green awards ceremony recognized leaders in LEED municipal building, municipal innovation, and policy.

Senator Ben Allen received the Elected Official of the Year Award. Pictured from left to right are the following: Seth Strongin, Vice Chair, and Holly Hill, Chair, USGBC-LA Board; Senator Ben Allen; Ruby Rose Yepez, MGBCE Co-Chair; Ben Stapleton, USGBC-LA Executive Director. Photo Credit: Alex East

While this environmental era that we are living in is far from normal, it is time to accept that it is the new abnormal. It is time to come together and share our strategies in combating these challenges for a sustainable and resilient future.

Julia Edinger is the Assistant Editor for Builder.Media. She can be reached at


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