Just as the upheaval of this year’s pandemic and social unrest is reshaping so much of our social and civic life, it also set the tone for Southface Institute’s 2020 Greenprints conference, which took place for the first time completely online August 6. A gathering of architects, engineers, developers, academics and top sustainability professionals, from Georgia and beyond, Greenprints took on this year’s challenges at the nexus of the built environment, health and equity and how they relate to the concerted work for a low-carbon future.
“While the pandemic temporarily slowed global climate pollution from the transportation sector, it was clearer than ever that the climate impacts from our built environment didn’t abate, and in fact, in our homes, energy and water consumption is up,” said Southface President, Andrea Pinabell. “Added to that realization, the urgency of the outcry for racial justice drove home the imperative to determine actions our organization should be taking in delivering on a vision for a more equitable and inclusive future.”
Keynote speaker, innovator and serial entrepreneur K.P. Reddy kicked off the day by speaking about the importance of fostering new ideas and solutions to meet current challenges with technological advances that break through what’s been done before.
Throughout the panel presentations speakers discussed innovative ways that individuals and organizations are working together to address the multi-faceted challenges in our communities and affect real, lasting solutions.
Technical Expertise Serving Real-World Challenges
Morning panels showed the commitment that AEC professionals have not only to improvements and performance of the built environment but how their work impacts climate resilience, workplace health and social and racial equity. Technical sessions on energy code updates ran alongside those on policies and strategies to catalyze attainable housing and integrate environmental justice and create collaboration between municipal, corporate and frontline groups.
Lunch was a chance to connect with other participants over the platform’s virtual networking feature and listen in on the CleanTech Entrepreneur Challenge, where four upcoming entrepreneurs who are launching new products in the clean-tech arena spoke of their innovations. Their work included ways to make sustainable building solutions more affordable, window inserts to improve a home’s seal and efficiency and decorative solar panels that integrate with a home’s design—just a few ways that technology is evolving to increase accessibility to sustainable living at home.
Imagining Georgia’s Low-Carbon Future
In the afternoon, participants entered the world of Drawdown Georgia—the project working to identify the most promising solutions to significantly reduce Georgia’s net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by drawing them down so that atmospheric levels of GHG concentrations decline on a year-by-year basis. After a welcome from Southface’s Board of Directors member, John Lanier, Executive Director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, which funds Drawdown Georgia, attendees heard an introduction to the project by its organizers and chose from five virtual breakout sessions dedicated to brainstorming pathways forward to retrofit the built environment, address electricity demand response, promote rooftop solar with storage and encourage composting and electric vehicles. Session report-backs laid out a number of concrete steps to actively work toward reducing the state’s carbon footprint over the next 10 years.
Working So All May Thrive
The day showed a strong commitment of the Southeast’s sustainability community to improving the built environment and making sustainable solutions more attainable, allowing people of all backgrounds to flourish. “In the end, it’s all about the people who live, work or study in the buildings and spaces we aim to positively impact,” said Pinabell.