CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Building Conference is a simply named yet broadly targeted event coming to Morgantown. It will speak to anyone who works or lives in, designs or redesigns, or fixes or owns buildings that are old, new or yet to be built in West Virginia.
In short, just about everybody who has a stake in the quality of the places where we spend so much time, says Sarah Halstead of the nonprofit group WV GreenWorks, one of the sponsors of the Jan. 31-Feb. 2 event at the Waterfront Place Hotel.
After all, the state's "built environment," as she sums it up, is shorthand for the homes, buildings, offices and spaces where people live, work and spend most of their daily existence.
"It's our big chance to really accelerate the general public's understanding of energy efficiency and healthy building concepts. And it's certainly a chance for all the players in the state to get on the same page so we can work better together for better results," she said.
WV GreenWorks brought together West Virginia University, West Virginia State University and the state chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council to advance the cause of what she calls "sustainable building."
The conference (more details and online registration at thebuildingconference.com) has attracted a mix of heavy hitters. These include both international design and housing figures, policy-makers and people working across the state on affordable housing, downtown revival and healthier, more efficient buildings.
One keynote speaker is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cameron_Sinclair/" target="_blank">Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity and author of the book "Design Like You Give a Damn," who emphasizes the significance of neighborhood and community in design decisions.
Another speaker, Scott Horst, is a senior vice president of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program, an influential and ever-evolving voluntary green and sustainable building standard.
"LEED, version 4, is his baby," Halstead noted.
The conference's four concurrent tracks -- Residential Performance, Commercial Innovation, Education and Facilities and Sustainable Communities -- illustrate that no building or community structure really falls outside the event's scope, Halstead said.
"A concentration on fixing what we've got is a serious theme in this conference," she said. "A lot of time people will ask contractors: 'What can I do with this building?' The contractor will often say 'you can't do much with these old buildings, they weren't built to be energy efficient.' That's not always true."
If a building can't be retrofitted to healthier, more sustainable standards, it can be responsibly 'deconstructed', recycling valuable materials, dumping less waste into landfills and offering owners tax write-offs.
WV GreenWorks has partnered with the national nonprofit group ReUse People of America, whose founder, Ted Reiff, is another keynote speaker. His group has pioneered an approach for deconstructing old buildings, work they showcased a couple years ago with a Putnam County building.
"We've talked for about a year about how to help all these communities that have dilapidated buildings," Halstead said. "What's the business model for helping these people out? There's never a budget; property values are driven down. Think about a model at this conference that will work for everyone all over West Virginia."
A sampling of conference topics (see sidebar at end) also reveals how some topics specifically address building owners, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) workers, the building supply industry and anyone involved in retrofitting or building healthier, more contemporary structures.
Or, for that matter, teachers and others looking ahead to West Virginia's future, said Halstead. "We'd love to get teachers and HVAC people -- they've got special love at this conference."
Appalachian Power, another event sponsor, is offering 10 scholarships to building industry workers to cover conference registration, available to general contractors and HVAC and insulation pros.