Thousands of green-building advocates will travel to Phoenix this month for the industry's largest annual conference, featuring seminars, networking events and a consumer expo focused on energy efficiency and conservation.

Many of the estimated 25,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibitors at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, from Nov. 11 to 13 at the Phoenix Convention Center, also will get their first glimpse of sustainability efforts in the desert.

The Greenbuild conference will acquaint visitors from around the world with dozens of green-building projects and initiatives in the Valley and across the state.

Through a series of tours featuring more than 70 environmentally friendly Arizona projects, officials said they hope to attract new businesses operating in the burgeoning fields of sustainable development and conservation-oriented products and services.

"I think it's a great opportunity to showcase some of the things we're doing out here in the West," said Ian McDowell, a green-building expert with Tempe-based Sundt Construction.

"This is the first time Greenbuild has traveled west of the Mississippi."

Green opportunity

The northeastern United States, West Coast states and many European countries have distinguished themselves as leaders in the green-building movement, often by making use of green-building incentive programs and awareness campaigns.

Mark Wilhelm, a green-building consultant in Phoenix and this year's Greenbuild host committee chairman, said the conference should raise Arizona's profile among industry leaders while bolstering efforts to promote energy efficiency and conservation inside the state.

"Having Greenbuild here is important," said Wilhelm, founding principal of consulting firm Green Ideas. "It gets everybody's attention."

Hopes are unmistakably high, perhaps a bit too much so, that the conference will be a transformative event for Arizona, a state not particularly well-known for conservation efforts.

But with state and local leaders eagerly seeking alternative fuels for Arizona's stalled economic engines, they said Greenbuild could not have come at a better time.

Sundt is one of several local companies that will have projects on display during the Greenbuild tours and local street fairs, collectively dubbed Green Streets.

The tours and events will cut across all areas of environmentally sound design, construction and activity while venturing as far south as Tucson and as far north as Flagstaff.

Scheduled stops, organized according to both topic and geographic area, include several Arizona State University buildings, state and local government offices, K-12 schools in the East and West valleys, libraries, state conservation areas and several green-commercial projects.

Convenient truth

One factor in this year's conference that organizers hope will be a major draw is the presence of former Vice President Al Gore, who will be the keynote speaker at an opening celebration on the evening of Nov. 11 at Chase Field in Phoenix.

Gore won both an Oscar and the Nobel Peace Prize for his 2006 documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," about the dangers of global warming.

Still, Wilhelm said the conference is perhaps best known for its educational component and that the 2009 Greenbuild will be no different.

This year's event will feature more than 100 classes, lectures and workshops, in addition to the tours.

"What we're trying to do is market transformation," Wilhelm said. Market transformation involves creating awareness, educating and building a demand for environmentally friendly projects.

Tour of beauty

More than a dozen half-day and all-day Greenbuild-related tours of Arizona have been assembled with specific interests in mind, said Sandy Werthman, vice president of marketing at Phoenix-based Kitchell Corp. and one of Greenbuild's organizers.

For instance, conference attendees developing sustainable environments for higher education might opt for the Sustainable Tempe tour, which will showcase several ASU buildings, or the Arcosanti & Higher Education tour, which features green-building projects in and around Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Werthman said the tours will offer something for everyone, whether they are seeking insights into solar energy-generation techniques at warehouse and distribution centers such as PepsiCo's LEED-certified Gatorade Arizona facility in Tolleson, or alternative residential cooling systems such as the greenery-covered roofs of Optima DCH Development Inc.'s 2009 American Institute of Architects Design Award-winning Optima Camelview Village condominium project in Scottsdale.

In addition to the tours, a handful of cities are planning to hold street fairs to show off local energy-saving and conservation efforts, Werthman said.

Tickets to Greenbuild cost as much as $975 for full attendance to the show and all of its related events. The local events associated with the expo will give all members of the public a taste of Greenbuild at no charge, she said.

What about jobs?

With so many employers in a growing industry coming to Phoenix, city official Jill Buschbacher said it made sense to turn Greenbuild into an opportunity to connect local residents with jobs.

So for the first time in its history, the event also will include a job fair.

"We wanted to make sure that Phoenix job candidates had the opportunity to connect with as many jobs as possible," said Buschbacher, project manager for the Phoenix Community and Economic Development Department.

Buschbacher said that because space is limited for the job fair, only the first 1,000 registrants will be allowed in. In addition, anyone who has purchased a full-conference pass can attend the job fair, she said.

Previous work experience involving green buildings is preferred but not required, Buschbacher said.

"We don't have hundreds of companies attending the job fair, but we're still hoping to make a local impact with this event," she said.

Green building tours

When: 1:30-5:30 p.m. Nov. 13 (half-day); 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 14 (full-day).

Where: Tours leave from Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. Third St., Phoenix.

Registration: 866-579-8413, greenbuildexpo.org.

Event pricing: $65 (half-day); $90 (full-day).

Contemporary Desert Living

Habitat for Humanity and U.S. Green Building Council Chapter Legacy Project.
Habitat for Humanity Concrete Home.
Wendell Burnette residence.
The Urban Farm.
Medlock residence.
Galleries at Turney.
Optima Camelview Village.

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