Wednesday's agenda covered a little bit of everything—educational sessions, a press conference, manufacturer booth meetings, and lots of (physical) ground. As a first-timer to the show, I’m encouraged by the scope of the discussions and the insight of attendees who represented all parts of the design-build process.

The day began with a panel discussion—"Dematerializing the Built Environment: In Theory & Practice"—during which panelists Howard Brown, co-founder of sustainability consultancy dMass, and Mark Loeffler, director of Atelier Ten, offered an alternative measure to square footage for project teams and building owners to use when evaluating the impact of their designs. By looking at a material’s resource performance, Brown said, specifiers can measure the following: embodied mass (the inputs of energy, water, and materials needed for the product to do its job), end-user benefits (the reason consumers purchase the product), and naked value (the product’s essence sans excess embodied mass).

When the supply chain starts using those metrics, cool stuff happens. Brown cited a number of products and processes—including living materials, regenerative structures, biomimicry, and lightweighting—that come as an outcome of revaluating products’ and structures’ embodied mass. Among them: Ecovative’s mushroom insulation, MIT Media Lab’s Silk Pavillion, and Sharklet Technologies’ resilient surface that mimics the characteristics of shark skin.

Today marks the official announcement of the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED v4 and of the organization’s partnership with Underwriters Laboratory (UL). USGBC will work with UL to develop Environmental Product Declarations for a range of structural and finish building materials—helping to improve transparency in building-product manufacturing while also forcing the supply chain to more critically examine and take accountability for how a product is made. So far, major manufacturers are stepping up. CertainTeed announced seven Health Product Declarations covering 24 of its ceiling products, while both USG and GAF released Environmental Product Declarations for a selection of their respective product lines.

“We know that you make trade-offs when you make decisions about building materials,” USGBC senior vice president of LEED Scot Horst told members of the press during the organization’s press conference announcing the updated certification system yesterday. “We want people to make tradeoffs in a new way.”

The day wasn’t without its inspired displays of material reuse. Here's an artist carving an image of a two-dollar bill into a sheet of USG’s drywall.

Editor's note: Our parent company Hanley Wood recently entered into a strategic partnership with USGBC regarding the management of the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. For more information on that relationship, click here.