Thursday, June 12, 2008

Q/A with Emily Andrews

Today, we catch up with Emily Andrews, a member of the GTH 2008 Steering Committee and the Coordinator of the U.S. Green Building Council's St. Louis Chapter. We cover a lot of ground, so let's get right to the Q/A:

What's something that you've learned about, simply from working on the organization of this conference? In effect, have you had any "a-ha!" moments about products, services or trends?

One of the things that's impressed me in working on GTH 08 is how excited people are to be involved. We really drew deeply from our membership for the Steering Committee and subcommittees. People who have never been involved in Chapter activities got involved in planning the conference. It’s really been something for people to rally around and get excited about. Hopefully they won’t be too tired after this to keep up their involvement!

I'm also consistently impressed with all the great work going on around green building and sustainability across the Midwest . It’s easy to get caught up with what’s going on in California , the Pacific Northwest and the East Coast. And it's tough to compare ourselves to those regions. But when you take the time to really celebrate the positive and progressive work in the Midwest , you really uncover a lot of amazing people and hard work.

Are there any specific symposia, roundtables, speakers or sessions that you're particularly looking forward to during the conference?

I'm looking forward to the Greensburg , Kansas session. They have such an inspiring story. If a small town in Kansas can do what they’re doing . . . we can all take a cue from them. I’m also really excited to have representatives from the national USGBC at the conference. Rebecca Flora is the current board chair and she's kicking the conference off on Sunday. She's a great speaker and really has her ear to the ground. She comes from a USGBC Chapter, as the ED of the Green Building Alliance in western Pennsylvania . Her organization has done some really influential work at the legislative level to bring green economic development to western PA. I'm also excited about Scot Horst. He's the Chair of the USGBC LEED Steering Committee. I saw him speak at Greenbuild last year in Chicago and his energy and excitement about green building and transforming the built environment are pretty intoxicating. At some point in his career, he was an opera singer, so he's a real performer and really engages the audience. There are a lot of changes to LEED that will be launched at Greenbuild in November. Most will be very positive – streamlining the documentation and submittal process is sort of boring, but really necessary. The exciting changes will come with the addition of lifecycle analysis credits and regional credits which take into consideration the ecosystem in which you build. I hope we'll get a little bit of a sneak preview of those changes!

There are also a few breakout sessions that look really good:

Staying Green – Staying Competitive – Monday afternoon in the Corporate Track: The Cost of Green is a pretty well-known and well-respected tudy in the green building world that refutes a lot of myths out there that green building costs more. And Jason Hanline, with EMIS, is involved with the USGBC Chapter in Springfield , MO. He'll be talking about a strip mall that’s going green there!

The Chicago Story – Govt Track – Monday afternoon – I always like to hear what's going on in Chicago . The City of Chicago is a real leader in greening their built environment, maintenance and operations

There are also so many local, Chapter members that are giving presentations that I can't possibly single one out. They will all do a great job featuring the transformative work that’s going on in the St. Louis region.

Did the steering committee book this conference in any different ways than past events, in your mind? Are there some emphasis points that are new to this year's event?

While I've not been involved in previous GTH planning processes, I think the Steering Committee took a really different approach. For one, they THOUGHT BIG, setting the bar high and setting some pretty big goals for speakers, sponsorships, etc. And they've done a great job in putting together a really robust program. Having different topic tracks has helped to give the conference a different focus than previous years too. The Steering Committee really wanted to engage corporate decision makers – folks that are making design, construction and building maintenance decisions – in order to give them the tools to build green. I think we succeeded in bringing more folks like that to the table, which is really exciting. The green building movement is about bringing people together to build a good building – about integrating design, construction and the project team. I think the Steering Committee really took that to heart when planning the conference.

Are there any things about Downtown St. Louis that you'd like to point out to out-of-town guests? Any restaurants, sights or sounds that you'd totally recommend to people?

I could probably eat sushi every day, so I highly recommend Wasabi, which is within walking distance of the America's Center. And while we're talking about Asian food, Sen is another favorite – also within walking distance of America's Center. There's some drunken noodle dish there that I love to get with fried tofu. Very spicy with lots of veggies. Also along Washington , the Gelateria shouldn't be overlooked for a late afternoon pick-me-up, you can't really go wrong with some ice cream. And finally, local beer. The St. Louis Brewery and Tap Room is a quick cab ride away and is home to some of the tastiest local beer in St. Louis – Schlafly. We'll be sampling some on Monday at the City Museum

The architecture in downtown St. Louis is very impressive and since this is a green building conference, I would imagine folks would be interested in learning more. The AIA-St. Louis has a great bookstore just up the street from America's Center - - where folks can get great St. Louis centric books on architecture and the built environment. Two buildings near America's Center worth checking out (and these by NO means are the only ones) are the Bee Hat building – because the lions blow steam and I just love that – and the St. Louis Public Library. The Library is such a treasure here. There are some renovations going on right now, but the great hall is worth a look. (I found this cool photo of the lions on flickr -

The Mississippi River is an awesome body of water. If you have the time to stroll to the Arch grounds and take in the Mighty Mississippi, it's worth it – especially since it will probably still be high (flooding) come the conference.

I also love to catch live music and some of our city's best blues bars are pretty darn close. BBs Jazz Blues and Soups and the Broadway Oyster bar are a quick cab ride and a longer walk from the convention center. You could catch a local blues act, a national act or an open mic night at either place, depending on night. So bring your instrument if you're a musician and maybe they’ll let you sit in!

Do you get a sense that a lot of folks are finding GTH for the first time this year? What is bringing the conference to their attention?

I think we probably have a lot of first-timers. Of course, the conference gets higher attendance in its host city, so we’re seeing a lot of people from St. Louis who have never attended before. I think the conference program is drawing attention to the conference. We basically have three key note speakers lined up – we’re calling them Master Speakers – but they are all definitely key note caliber! Hopefully, there’s something for everyone at the conference. The sold out exhibit hall is also drawing attention.

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