It’s interesting to watch the broader culture around us as it adapts to new ideas and theories. The “Green” concept (the idea that we need to take care of the environment, reduce our carbon footprint, save energy, etc.) really isn’t new at all, but the mounting “buzz” around the word certainly is. When I was growing up, green was nothing more than my favorite color, but now it’s a top story in the news, a popular ad campaign, even a way of life.
It came as no surprise then, when the American Institute of Architects decided to give their Educational Facilities Planning Conference the theme: “Green Sustainable Design…It’s the Smart Thing to Do.” As an acoustical consulting and audio-visual design firm, we see our jobs as helping to pave the way toward a new standard in green sustainable design practices, so naturally we decided to attend the conference. We arrived at the Grand Traverse Bay Resort in Traverse City, Michigan, with our bags in hand and our sobriety intact. It wasn’t long though, before we were letting loose and shaking hands with our friends and colleagues from around the Midwest. The networking was great.
Most memorable to me was the keynote presentation given by Glen LeRoy, Dean of Lawrence Tech University in Southfield, Michigan. We had played golf with Glen earlier in September at the AIA Design Retreat at Torch Lake, but we didn’t know at that time that he would be the main speaker at this conference. Naturally, I was interested to hear what he had to say.
Glen’s main talk was on sustainability, and more specifically, it was about Michigan’s unique position in the world as it relates to climate change over the next 50 to 100 years. With the Great Lakes as one of our best assets, Michigan is predicted to experience less (or “more moderate”) climate change than almost any state in the U.S. over the next century. We have the most coastline of the 48 continental states, and ours sits over 600′ above sea level, making it virtually unaffected by rising ocean water levels. Glen used population charts from the 2000 Census to show how over the previous twenty years many southwest “Sun Belt” states had experienced tremendous population growth, and how the Midwest had become known as the “Rust Belt” with decreased population growth. His thesis was to re-brand the Midwest as the “Green Belt” by practicing sweeping architectural design reforms and replacing old standards with new green design principals. Glen went on to describe how regenerating Detroit would help to bolster confidence in our state and revitalize Michigan as a whole.
Granted, just about anything sounds better than the “Rust Belt,” but still, I think he was onto something. No matter where you stand on climate change, revitalizing Michigan shouldn’t be a political issue; it should be a no-brainer. Michigan residents should see the “green buzz” as an opportunity for growth that is long overdue.