The Times West Virginian

January 27, 2013

Sustainability focus at Building Conference & Expo 2013

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — The Building Conference & Expo 2013 is striving to show people all the reasons why they should choose sustainable building.

The conference will get started at 1:30 p.m. Thursday and will run through noon Saturday, with all the activities taking place at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown.

The event has been organized by WV GreenWorks Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Charleston.

Sarah Halstead Boland, executive director of WV GreenWorks, said the occasion will bring together leaders in sustainability and high-performance building for attendees to meet.

The focus is to assist decision-makers in how to best approach improving energy efficiency, indoor air quality and overall sustainability of existing buildings and communities.

“This conference is probably the state’s biggest opportunity for multiple stakeholders to get on the same page and celebrate what’s going very well in the state and to collaborate,” she said.

“The purpose of this is to try to end the ... finger-pointing and come together for solutions.”

WV GreenWorks, which has a very statewide focus, seeks to work with other nonprofits, industry and public agencies. The organization often holds forums that allow various groups of people to engage in a dialogue, go through training, and gain experiences that connect them and expose them to new information, Boland said.

In addition to her role with WV GreenWorks, Boland is also working in a new position with West Virginia State University to help build its Sustainable Community and Economic Development Program.

For the Building Conference & Expo, WV GreenWorks is partnering with leaders from across the state who have a similar mission, she said. West Virginia University’s School of Art and Design, the West Virginia Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, and the West Virginia State University Extension Office of Sustainable Development are involved and have provided support.

Boland said the event has a diverse mix of sponsors, including Appalachian Power Co., Appalachian Stewardship Foundation, Bridgemont Sustainability

Institute, Casto Technical Services, Hughes Industrial Supply Co., Katalyst, McKinley & Associates, Orenco Systems Inc., Pacific Grove Productions, MEPCO and ZMM.

For people who are interested in attending, registration will remain open until Tuesday at, Boland said. The cost is $199 per person, with a discounted fee of $99 for VISTA and Americorps volunteers. Some scholarships are available.

Portions of the event are free and open to the public.

During the conference, leaders will share their insights and touch on issues related to efficiency, retrofitting buildings, stormwater and transportation problems, and planning projects properly, Boland said. Attendees can also learn about innovative resources and financing that could cut costs.

She said the sessions will be beneficial for building owners, developers, engineers and suppliers, and will also be a great resource for homeowners who want to be green and educational leaders who want to gather information for energy-efficient school projects. In addition, students will be coming from all over the state.

“This ... is a conference that allows a homeowner, a high-performance remodeler, an affordable housing professional and a community advocate to come together to learn best practices,” Boland said. “They’ll learn about material choices that are healthier and more sustainable. They’ll learn how to save money.”

This is the second year for the conference. Last year, the event focused on residential building, with a major focus on helping Habitat for Humanity affiliates and others learn how to build to Energy Star standards. Nearly 200 people attended.

Its success motivated WV GreenWorks and the other involved parties to take the event to the next level this year, Boland said. The organizers are expecting to see 300 individuals in attendance.

The Building Conference & Expo will feature a variety of speakers Thursday afternoon, including Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity; Matthew Miller, co-founder and design/build instructor of Studio H; and Stephen Ritz, founder of the Green Bronx Machine. Scot Horst, senior vice president of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Program, will give a presentation Thursday night after dinner, and Friday morning will begin with a talk by Ted Reiff, founder of The ReUse People of America.

“It will be very engaging, very interesting, and diverse information will be put in front of the audience,” Boland said.

On Friday, people will have the chance to attend different education tracks focused on residential performance, commercial innovation, education and facilities, or sustainable communities. The day’s activities will also include a panel discussion titled “What Master Builders Know.”

The expo portion of the event will include exhibits from high performers that are completely dedicated to sustainability. The public is invited to visit the expo and meet the exhibitors free of charge on Friday from 4 to 7:45 p.m., she said.

“This is the best time ever to come and shop for the professional and the supplier that probably has what you need,” Boland said

She said community members can also stay for the “Ignite” talks at 8 p.m. Friday at no cost. “Ignite” is a series of speedy, inspiring and informative presentations often based on innovation.

Then on Saturday morning, students and young entrepreneurs will pitch their sustainable business ideas during the “Mind Garage,” and then the statewide “Placemaker Awards” will recognize green building and leadership. Both are free and open to the public.

“Saturday is dedicated to innovation and entrepreneurship,” Boland said.

In addition, a pre-conference training is being offered Wednesday for the Advanced Energy Quality-Assured Professional HVAC Certification, which costs $250. A LEED Green Associate Certification Prep Session will be held Thursday morning — before the conference kicks off — at a cost of $70, or free for members of the West Virginia Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Robert Riffle, who owns Premier Construction Services LLC, based out of his home office in Fairmont, will be sitting on the “What Master Builders Know” panel on Friday. His company builds single-family residences, remodels and does commercial projects in a sustainable way.

A native of West Virginia, Riffle graduated from Flemington High School, attended Potomac State College, and earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from West Virginia University. He moved back to the state last year after spending about 14 years in North Carolina. His wife Sherry works for WVU Hospitals.

Riffle has been a licensed general contractor for more than 25 years now. He obtained the Certified Green Professional credential through the National Association of Home Builders, and is the only Master Certified Green Professional in West Virginia. He is also on the board of directors for the West Virginia Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Riffle explained that the buildings that people live in have a very large carbon footprint, and everyone must do whatever they can to minimize that impact and give back to the environment.

“It’s what’s right,” he said. “It’s right for people. It’s right for the environment. It’s right for everything. We only have one planet, and we’ve consumed so much and given back so little over the previous decades that we’re now into greenhouse warming. We really have to be conscious about the carbon footprint that each and every one of us put out.”

Sustainable building efforts help with the indoor air quality of homes and allow people to use less resources and spend less money on utilities as a result, Riffle said.

“It is a full circle type of benefit that everybody gets,” he said. “That’s why I do what I do.”

For homes and buildings to obtain the qualifications to be certified green under the National Association of Home Builders’ Research Center, there is an inherent expenditure up front, Riffle said. But a recent study from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that on average California homes with some type of energy rating sold for 9 percent higher than similar homes that were less efficient between 2007 and early 2012.

In today’s society, there are special mortgages set up for people who are building a green facility, and the National Association of Realtors has a program to train real estate agents to market sustainable homes, he said. These programs and others are helping to impact people’s actions.

Consumers are willing to pay a premium to get a far better product that has a longer lifespan. Plus, sustainable building is helping to create jobs, Riffle said.

He said people of all walks of life, from the ordinary consumer to the professional, will be present at the upcoming Building Conference & Expo. He encouraged individuals to come to network and gather a wealth of information.

Email Jessica Borders at or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.