Architects, builders, and concerned citizens gathered in Houston, April 29, 2005 for the first annual Gulf Coast Green Symposium on Building. With the recent series on air pollution in the Houston Chronicle, it was no surprise that this conference was well attended. Several prominent stakeholders spoke including Mayor Bill White. Representatives from the US Department of Energy building technologies program, the US Green Building Council, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Houston Advanced Research Center, and the Associated General Contractors partnered their efforts to make a dream from 2 years ago become reality.
Lectures were grouped into 2 areas, commercial or residential. Unfortunately, attendees had to choose between the education tracks both being equally enticing. Extending the symposium into a 2 day conference may help in the future.
A panel of speakers discussed a variety of topics concerning green building. The morning session focused on the effect of the Texas Gulf Coast climate on planning, building sites, and landscaping for the commercial sector. Another panel presented innovative green technologies for residential use. I attended this session and was thoroughly inspired by the many developments in sustainable residential homes. One noteworthy development is the low cost of entry, which means the trade offs are much more attractive than 20 years ago. Also discussed was the �net zero� home which is a home that produces as much energy as it uses. The US Department of Energy, Building America Council has a pilot home that does just that and can be viewed on their web site.
For those considering green technology for their house, the following ideas will clinch you: a low impact foundation using basalt instead of rebar, light framing in multiples of 4 instead of 2, thermotunneling based cooling system in each room with individual zone control, tax advantage design, and the net zero home.
Babysitting issues unfortunately tore me away from the afternoon sessions. One of the afternoon highlights included a presentation by Brian Yeoman of the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC). Those familiar with the techno-cool nursing school in the Texas Medical Center can applaud Mr. Yeoman for that creation. HARC can also be applauded for their development of a Local Green Materials Database that Mr. Yeoman presented at the symposium.
The advances in technology, the costs of energy, and the trends in home building will hopefully get more Houstonians interested in green building. I’m looking forward to the coming year when Gulf Coast Green has a 2 day conference with on-site free babysitting.