New Gravity... New Paradigm

By Brandon Hassell

Posted August 8, 2019

Where are we?

How did we get here?

Where are we going?

These are the the three big questions that defined this year’s New Gravity Housing Conference - with the answers having lasting impacts on the future quality of life for our planet.

New Gravity is not just about employing a set of design parameters, but also orienting all of us around the central why of projects. This shared "why" invites professionals across disciplines, including designers, builders, financiers, policy makers, and end users,  to speak the same language around climate resilience – a new social network of action for a new paradigm!

Developing any paradigm involves many steps taken over time, and vital to this is the sharing of information. The  impact from choices made during the life of a building project compound, and sharing not only the technical knowledge but also lessons learned was a primary thread in this year's conference.


Below are some information exchange highlights - make sure to check out the New Gravity Housing Conference webpage for full details including photos, the program, and history of the event. 


1 | The Why and How of a Streamlined Passive Process

Buildings account for 39 percent of carbon emissions in the U.S. and scientists attribute this to the daily operations and maintenance of buildings. A significant portion of carbon emissions, however, comes from the embodied energy from construction. Curating a streamlined production process that incorporates carbon-smart vapor-open materials in concert with affordable prefabricated panel assemblies greatly simplifies passive house construction. This, as outlined by session speakers Marlee Beres and Martin Lettenmeier of Blueprint Robotics, lowers overall construction costs, limits the amount of carbon emitted during construction, and creates a level of replicability that revolutionizes passive house construction methods, leading to mass marketability of green building. 


2 | Embrace the Digital Age

Digital technology has a lot to offer when it comes to heating/cooling system management, especially for multifamily projects. Installation of communicating thermostats is a great way to conserve energy by using a centralized computer system which collects data from the array of stationed thermostats and relays that information to building owners for a more detailed look at how energy is being used in the building. This makes potential energy saving retrofit options easier to identify based on a series of aggregated information taken from the pool of data from the environmental control settings building-wide. Building owners can also work with residents, optimizing their comfort while also saving money in the long run.    


3 | Challenge Yourself and Engage with Different Perspectives

Counter to the narrative held in some circles, the majority of Americans accept the scientific data surrounding the occurrence of human-caused climate change. Even with the majority in agreement, the challenge still remains around how to galvanize action that slows and reverses global warming. Understanding the ways that anxiety can both hinder and spur action is necessary to unpacking the human psychology of why some are alarmed by climate inaction while others feel no impetus for change. As demonstrated in the session, Engaging the Climate Spectrum: Passive House for all, more communication and understanding is needed, and this can further spur action amongst a skeptical or cautious crowd over name calling and impugning their motives.        


4 | Wood! The New Heavy Hitter

There is a growing demand for quality, affordable housing worldwide. Currently, around 330 million people live in subpar housing with consistently poor construction standards; however, a revolution in the production of multifamily housing units with the use of wood material is able to alleviate a lot of these issues according to session speaker Jeff Spiritos of Spiritos Properties LLC. Examples of social housing currently built in Europe provide templates for addressing the problem of affordable quality climate resilient housing. Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) can be quickly manufactured; prefabricated members can be produced to specific needs and the wood material itself acts as a carbon sequester, while steel and concrete adds large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere while in production. This revolutionary approach to building construction also allows reuse of material at the end of the building’s life. Wood members can easily be taken and refabricated into furniture or future wood members of another building after its initial life.  

These are only some of the many compelling takeaways from this year's conference. And we look forward to seeing how the topics discussed translate into real-world impact so we can all continue to learn from each other's experiences. Some sessions will be featured in our online Webinar Library - so please stay tuned. 


Thank you again to all of our speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and participants for making this third annual event a tremendous success. We look forward to seeing you next year!! 

Green Building United Legacy Partners

Green Building United Platinum Partners

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