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Eco-Friendly Event Celebrates Sustainability and Green Thinkers

By Ryan MacDonald

What do you get when you cross a Ted Talk about sustainability with the high stakes pressure of a poetry slam?

Answer: The Green Building Slam + Summit.

Presented by the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, this annual event brings together the leading minds of the green and eco-friendly design world for a weekend full of conversation and inspiration, all in the name of sustainable living and the green building movement.

Come the first weekend of November, homeowners, architects, developers, designers and real estate professionals will converge on Kane Hall on the campus of University of Washington to attend workshops and classes, network with other like-minded eco-nerds and swap stories about design challenges and accomplishments.

But it’s the event’s opening night, aka “The Slam”, that sets the overall tone for the weekend festivities.

Before a packed house, a hand-selected group of 10 presenters will share intimate details from projects they’ve completed throughout the Pacific Northwest, and with only 10 minutes, they are tasked with the challenge of wowing the crowd about how and why these projects pushed the (green) envelop toward a more livable future.

It’s an evening to celebrate and be inspired by what people have done,” said Greg Lotakis, a volunteer member of the guild who helps plan and put on the event. “It’s really intended to be celebrating those projects and giving people access to what’s possible.”

From high performing Passive Homes (which use zero energy to heat or cool) to mixed-use buildings, the projects that are typically presented “take sustainable development and design and construction to the highest level,” Lotakis said.

Most of these folks that inspire me, and that I surround myself with, I mean, they really think in terms of how everything is connected,” said Lotakis, who develops green buildings on Bainbridge Island.

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Founded in 1993 by a group of professionals who were incorporating green design into their everyday practices, the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild is a community of builders and thinkers who exchange ideas and advance their mission of sustainably by thought sharing and educating the public.

Today the guild includes three chapters that span across the PNW region in Oregon, British Columbia and Washington. Everyone is a volunteer and everyone is there because they believe in the work.

Presenters for this year’s slam have yet to be announced (the application deadline closed last week) but previous speakers have included Ross Shapin, who helped design a co-housing community on Whidbey Island, and a team from The Artisan Group that conquered a complicated build on a remote San Juan Island with one of their signature Passive Homes.

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When the fanfare of the opening night dies down, the real education begins at “The Summit”. This year, attendants can pick and choose from panel discussions they’re most interested in, like energy storage, water reuse, or high performing envelop systems, and vendors will also be on hand showcasing their latest wares and clean technology solutions from ventilation systems to windmill products.

Jason Mclennan, founder of the Living Features Institute, will serve as one of the weekend’s keynote speakers where he’ll be sharing stories about a home he recently completed on Bainbridge Island called Heron Hall, a groundbreaking structure that features photovoltaic panels and two cisterns (one for drinking; one for gardening) and is completely off the water and power grid.

With a mission to “support through education the progressive work of our members in the Pacific Northwest in order to improve the relationship between our communities and our built environment”, the Guild not only puts on this public event, but also continues its work throughout the year by organizing monthly educational evenings at local community centers.

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These communal gatherings can be very useful, especially in a rapidly evolving industry where regulations and codes are constantly changing (and vary according to your jurisdictions). “In the green building world, there’s a lot to navigate,” said Lotakis. “There’s a lot of certifications and there’s a lot to try and learn and understand.”

No matter where your level of interest may be, any homeowner who may be curious about incorporating new, green or sustainable elements into their next home improvement project could get something from this weekend.

“If you have an interest in green building and are inspired by amazing design, and the built environment, it’s an event that anyone can show up to,” Lotakis said.

Tickets for the event are on sale now.

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