Our Insights

Greenbuild 2023: Decarbonization & Smart Buildings

By Desmond Greene

Greenbuild 2023, held in Washington, DC, emphasized sustainable building practices. Over four days, this event covered a wide range of topics, with a strong focus on achieving net-zero emissions and decarbonization in buildings. In this blog, team member and event attendee Desmond Greene (Managing Director, Building Optimization) explores his key takeaways from Greenbuild 2023 and how they shape the future of decarbonization in buildings.


One significant insight from Greenbuild 2023 came from Joseph Allen, author of Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, and his team. They found that improving indoor air quality boosts productivity, but the exact reasons remain unclear. Aside from carbon dioxide, experts are still determining which specific elements in the air make people more productive. However, it’s clear that having a MERV 13 filtration system paired with a CFM 40 ventilation rate enhances indoor air quality and productivity.


The event also highlighted the importance of building resilience, especially in the face of unexpected challenges. Several workshops focused on designing buildings and systems that can withstand unusual stress. An excellent example from a presentation by Heath Melton of Howard Hughes Corporation is water use in Teravalis in Buckeye, AZ. They have reduced water consumption by 52% compared to legal limits, demonstrating preparedness for resource shortages.


Another interesting insight is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in Smart Buildings. Companies like Google and JLL are experimenting with data management using AI/ML to improve building management. However, they’re still grappling with challenges, such as distinguishing real problems from false alarms and setting clear priorities. Our takeaway is that the field is still evolving, providing opportunities for innovation.

Overall, Greenbuild 2023 showed that decarbonization has become well-established in the field of architecture and construction. Various sustainable technologies and practices have become more integrated into the industry, and the associated costs are becoming more reasonable and aligned with standard construction expenses. The industry is at a point where it can focus on reducing carbon emissions and improving indoor air quality without causing significant disruptions or compromising the core functions or structural integrity of buildings.