Below is my keynote speech that I delivered this week at the Northeast Sustainable Energy Associations Building Energy Conference (BE12). It was short, simple and sexy. I hope you like it.
Cities are the Future of the Green Building Industry
There are two things that I would like you to take away from my speech today.
Repeat after me : Think Urban. Think Sexy.
Cities are the future of our industry. Cities are our greatest resource. They are a true melting pot. They are the epicenter of our cultural growth, mixed uses, innovation and ideas. It is unfortunate to say that they have been neglected for over 50 years as our country has promoted and built sprawling suburbs that require more energy and resources that our earth can give.
Despite the push for sprawl, there is a new wave of people, an urban generation some may call it, who are pushing back and giving our cities love because of its walkability, density, accessibility and its sustainability. The urban generation recognizes that cities are the sexiest thing on the planet. Only in a city can you walk, bike or take mass transit to all of your needs. Cities are sustainable.
So, who are these people that are embracing the city? They are my generation – the 20 – 30 something and the empty nesters. The millennial are so urban. We are connected. We love high design, walkable neighborhoods, bicycles, coffee shops and iphones. We love grassroots initiatives and being unique.
The empty nesters are very similar – they are embracing the city and are looking to toss out the big home that’s expensive to heat and maintain for a cool, urban setting that has many amenities within a short walking distance. Have you researched how many millenials and urban nesters there are? The numbers are staggering. Its something like 100 + million people depending on who you ask, of course.
So why am I driving this home today? The city is the future and the urban dweller is our target market. We as an industry need to learn how to appeal to the urban dweller. There are two ways that we can promote our cities and our industry.
- Drive the Market
- Drive the policy.
Lets talk about the market. The urban dweller is a very sophisticated consumer. We have subscriptions to dwell magazine, organic honey in the cupboard and iphones. If our industry wants to target this market, we need to begin to think high design. Think urban and think sexy. Our industry needs sex appeal. We need the Madison avenue approach. Lets sell the sizzle not the steak. And let me be clear – sexy does not mean pink hard hats and cut off shorts on a lady. Sexy is high design. Sophistication. Allure. Good type face. Intuitive.
Now, lets talk policy.
Look, I am a Buffalo chic. Let me tell you about what Buffalo is doing so you can understand how cities can promote a sustainable lifestyle through policy. Buffalo is implementing a new zoning code that is revolutionary. Little old rusty buffalo is right now taking away minimum parking requirements. Buffalo is pushing for 100 % storm water retention. Buffalo is giving vacant houses away for one dollar to avoid sending old growth wood to the landfill, to promote density and encourage new life in areas that have been forgotten. The urban dwellers get it. I am in the process of buying one of these dollar houses. Why? Because despite needing 40K worth of work, I see value in the urban setting. I see a mixed use neighborhood where I am close to everything, including the bars and coffee shops where I can make a positive impact in a neglected neighborhood. I am the market. That house will need to be energy efficient. Hell, if I can, I am making it net zero because as an urban dweller, I realize the importance.
If Buffalo can do this. Other cities can and will. Rarely is Buffalo ahead of the curve but this time we are. We are pushing the bar and creating a sustainable city.
As Douglas Farr, an architect and urbanist has said – We need a grand unification. I call it the cornucopia of sustainability.
We need to combine three areas – smart growth, urbanism and high performance buildings. We are all in this room to learn about high performance buildings but we represent the sustainable industry as a whole and therefore, we need to drive the market and drive the policy to bring these three areas together. We will only be sustainable if these three things can come together and guess what – only cities can have these three things!!
So the message I give to you all is that – Think Urban and think sexy. Cities are the future. Let’s stop building energy efficient buildings with parking lots surrounding them and push to build denser and smarter. True energy efficiency will never be achieved on the scale of a single building.. so let’s think broader.
We need this in order to promote a world that is healthier, wealthier and more beautiful for present and future generations. Lets think urban and lets think sexy and push our industry to where it needs to be to truly push for a sustainable 21st century.
Think Urban and Think Sexy!