Travis and I attended the 2009 Greenbuild Conference held last week at the Phoenix Convention Center. In a word, it was “impressive” – offering a little something to all constituents in the green building sector including our firm Navitas Capital, which is a sector-based cleantech venture capital firm focused on green building technologies. It’s estimated that the conference hosted over 27,000 attendees, including: leading architects, contractors, developers, engineers, consultants, urban planners, investors and other professionals in the building industry and members of the USGBC – who hosted the event. If you weren’t able to attend, you may be able to catch a few archived videos from 2009 GreenBuild Speakers.
Observation(s) #1: GreenBuild has really come into its own as a leading tradeshow in any sector, let alone green building. There were over 1,800 booths on two convention floors, up an estimated 25% from last year. This was a surprisingly strong turnout in our opinion, given the current economy. Despite the current soft trends in new construction, LEED construction in 2009 is now estimated by Rob Watson to be up over 40% vs. 2008, for a cumulative total of over 7 billion+ square feet. With this in mind, there are new jobs to be had from America’s “green” building boom, the USGBC confirms, and lots of them. In a new report conducted with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, the USGBC says green construction is on track to support nearly 8 million new jobs by 2013 — a 400 percent leap over the previous five years. Booz Allen determined that efforts to make buildings more energy efficient already supports more than 2 million jobs and generates more than $100 billion in gross domestic product and U.S. wages. A full copy of the report can be downloaded at the following link.
In the same vein, John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins is talking about a plan called “Cash for Caulkers,” a follow on to the successful “Cash for Clunkers” program that will put people to work and save money through nationwide weatherization. The NY Times covered this story this morning.
Observation(s) #2: In perception and reality…”green building” has moved from a niche to a sector. Between 2009 and 2013, the same USGBC / Booz Allen report estimates that “green construction” will inject $500+ billion into the U.S. economy – despite a challenging economic outlook. From our perspective, these statistics are more evidence that green building sector is one of the most relevant sectors in cleantech (energy efficiency) and the U.S. economy.
Observation(s) #3: By all accounts, the convention floor at Greenbuild has become increasingly “corporate,” with big-name logos like: BASF, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Webcor (Navitas Strategic Partner), Herman Miller, Steelcase, Autodesk (a “Best in Show” Booth), Sloan, Gensler (Navitas Strategic Partner), HOK, Turner, and DPR Construction. While perhaps more true, I would submit that this “convention-floor reality” if you will, is a major milestone in terms of GreenBuild becoming a world-class tradeshow and driving future innovation from all players in the green building sector. In short, Green building is no longer just marketing hype…it’s become an integral part of the future fabric of mainstream construction. In support of this thesis, Rick Fedrizzi, President and CEO of USGBC, said at the opening gala that the greatest hurdle to getting the building industry to get more efficient is to expose the myth that doing so is too expensive and too hard. Again, Navitas Capital is in complete agreement with Rick on this thesis.
Observation(s) #4: Advancing innovation in the built environment goes well beyond the emergence of a new technology, process innovation or green building practice. Equally important, it’s about changing the behavior of key influencers in the implementation decision process: (1) Specifiers: Architects, Engineering Consultants and Mechanical or Electrical Contractors (i.e., individuals who influence or make the decision); and (2) End Users: Facility Managers (i.e., individuals who manage or operate commercial buildings) and Owners.
Observation(s) #5: If you’re not measuring & benchmarking (e.g. energy, carbon footprint) at the facilities management / CFO level(s), you’re not getting it. There is a large and growing need for software tools that measure, evaluate, monitor and control energy use & carbon. Beyond standard ROI, there is an increasing need to measure more esoteric variables like workforce productivity, health and comfort.
Among the products and companies that caught our eye were:
Serious Materials (A Navitas Capital Portfolio Company) had a very active booth, as always. Over the last several years, Serious Materials has really emerged as a category leader in sustainable building materials and is on track to expand its leadership position. In practice, Serious Materials is changing the game in several huge sectors within the built environment: Super-insulating full-frame R-value SeriousWindows™ reduce heating and cooling energy costs by up to 50%. SeriousGlass™ industry-leading insulating commercial glass have been installed in over 10,000 projects and offer the highest energy savings in the industry. QuietRock® soundproof drywall reduce material use, enhance livability, and support dense urban construction. EcoRock™, the only true green alternative to gypsum drywall and five times more environmentally friendly, uses 80% less energy in its core production and has the potential to save billions of pounds of CO2 annually. The company was commended by both President Obama and Vice President Biden for its advanced energy-saving materials and the work it is doing to re-create American green manufacturing jobs. The company was recently ranked one of the “2009 Global Cleantech 100” in the Energy Efficiency/Building category. In addition, it just won yesterday a 2009 Green Product Award by Building Products Magazine.
Lunera Lighting (a Navitas Capital Portfolio Company) is an exciting new LED player. GreenBuild served as a “coming out party” for the Company – showcasing its’ ultra-thin, energy-efficient LED fixtures for general commercial lighting. It’s application of digital lighting technology replaces common fluorescent fixtures and improves the quality of light for commercial building occupants, lowers the operating cost for building owners, enhances worker productivity and reduces the carbon footprint. All bias aside as an investor in Company, Lunera created a significant buzz at the booth and around the entire conference. Stay tuned to hear more about Lunera Lighting.
Lucid Design Group is a privately held cleantech software company, founded in 2004, and a pioneer in providing real-time information feedback to teach, inspire change and save resources. Over the past five years, Lucid has endeavored to make resource use visible, accessible and engaging so that building occupants have the tools to reduce and manage their consumption. Today, tens of thousands of people live and work in schools, companies, community and commercial centers and homes enhanced by Lucid’s web-based Building Dashboard® technology. Now in its third generation, the intuitive Building Dashboard® user interface allows a user to connect personal electricity, water and natural gas consumption with the actions and events that take place within buildings. Very cool tools. In particular, Travis and I were very impressed with Lucid’s U/I, which was as engaging as any we have seen.
Among the many key participants that Travis and I enjoyed talking to and/or seeing at this year’s conference:
Kevin Surace, President & CEO of Serious Materials; Phil Williams VP Sustainability & Systems Engineering of Webcor Builders; Brandon Tinianov, CTO Serious Materials; Gary Dillabough & Mike Dorsey of The Westly Group; John Picard, Founder and CEO of John Picard & Associates / Founding Member of USGBC; Michael Lesyna, CEO of Lunera Lighting (welcome aboard Mike!); Clark Manus, CEO of Heller, Manus Architects and future President of AIA; Tom Quinn, VP Worldwide Sales & Marketing of Lunera; Mark Mitchell, Chief Operating Officer of Serious Materials; Joel Makower, Chairman / Executive Editor at Greener World Media, Inc.; Megan White, Sustainability Coordinator of Webcor Builders; Mark Walsh, Founder of Lunera Lighting; Rick Fedrizzi President, CEO & Founding Chairman USGBC & Lunera Lighting Board Member; Ted Van Der Linden, Director of Sustainability, DPR Construction; Donald Peifer, founder of Lunera Lighting; Marc Porat, Pegaus Capital Advisors; Valarie Jenkins of Serious Materials; Todd Lukesh, Manager of Sustainability at Webcor Builders; Henri-Claude (H.C.) Bailly of CG Ventures LLC; Andrew Deitz, VP & Co-Founder Climate Earth; Gerard McCaughey, Founder of Infineco; Leslie Gueverra, Associate Editor, Greener World Media; Zachary Gentry, Chief Strategy Officer & Co-founder of Adura Technologies; Jack Bolick, President and Chief Executive Officer of Adura Technologies; Alexander Gallo of Lunera Lighting; Ray Anderson, Founder of Interface and Al Gore.
About Navitas Capital
Navitas Capital is a venture capital firm investing in green technology solutions for the built environment. Navitas Capital’s investment focus is unique among VCs — dedicated to working with entrepreneurs who are developing innovative building materials and technologies for a sustainable built environment. Navitas invests in the areas of sustainable building materials, building automation, building systems, advanced lighting, water management and distributed renewable energy. Founded in 2008, Navitas has been one of the early and driving forces behind several of today’s leading green building technology companies. Navitas Capital is based in Berkeley, California. Please visit www.navitascap.com for more information.