Entering the arena at Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, home to the Temple University Owls, 2013 Greenbuild attendees could see that this wasn’t going to be just a normal keynote. As U.S. Green Building Council President Rick Fedrizzi jogged onto the stage, stage lighting scanned the crowd and loud music filled the dome. Perhaps it was just the culmination of a long day of empowering sessions, or maybe the packed, 10,000-person arena, but the air was charged with anticipation. This night, said Fedrizzi, “Greenbuild had not just one, but two rock stars on display.”
The first rock star was, of course, Jon Bon Jovi, but the other was the Greenbuild 2013 keynote speaker, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton, decked out all in green for the occasion, spoke of her longstanding relationship with Greenbuild and congratulated USGBC on their 20th anniversary. She praised USGBC and all attendees for their ability to start a movement that is changing the world. Clinton explained how it started with a simple idea: promote sustainability—do well and do good. “It was an idea that was so profoundly true, that I and others when we first heard about it, said ‘of course, that is exactly what we need to be doing.’”
“This is a great conference,” she continued, “because it brings together those of you who are in the cutting-edge from across industries, the country, and even the world.”
Within minutes, she delved into serious issues, such as energy security and economic growth. She explained how hard construction was hit during the recession. Government budget cuts have been holding back the growth from which the country could benefit. “Public investment in infrastructure has fallen to the lowest levels since World War II . . . so fewer schools are being built and renovated.”
Green construction and retrofitting, according to Clinton, provide answers to these problems. It will continue to create millions of jobs as well as spur growth and innovation, all as we lower our domestic energy consumption.
Retrofitting buildings is a key part of the Clinton Climate Initiative. According to Clinton, “[the foundation] works with the private and public sector in partnership to reduce carbon emissions, improve energy efficiency and spur more investments in green construction including some innovative financing tools.”
Her favorite example of this is the retrofit of the Empire State Building. “Think about that iconic building,” she prompts, with “2.8-million square feet of office space.”
It was an extensive task, Clinton explained, “improving windows, insulating radiators, updating lighting and temperature control systems.” As many as 275 jobs were created in those two years, and in the end, the building received LEED Gold Certification. “The retrofit reduced its annual energy consumption by 38 percent, worth roughly $4.4-million a year.”
Inevitably, the rumors of Clinton’s run for presidency in 2016 came up after someone in the crowd shouted “Hillary 2016!” The crowd seemed receptive to the idea—not surprising, as she had spent the last hour praising green building. “There are some hecklers, I would never,” Clinton paused to smirk, “say anything bad about.”
She spoke of politics briefly, but only about the need for unity on green building and climate change. She called for compromise:
“Everybody is concerned. It seems as though our partisan debates have been taken over by a small minority that doesn’t believe in compromise. We could never have formed our nation if every time there was a disagreement at Constitution Hall, people said ‘Well we’re leaving.’”
As Clinton, Fedrizzi and Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia, re-enforced in their speeches, America needs to take the lessons forged in Philadelphia so many years ago to further promote green building.
“What a democracy does is bring people together with very different experiences—and lots of times values and philosophies—but with the common understanding that no one has the truth. We are not a theocracy. We are not a dictatorship . . . we bring people together and we debate it out. We have to get back to doing that.”
This guest post is by Phil Stamper, ASLA PR and Communications Coordinator.
Image credit: Hillary Clinton / USGBC Vimeo