Through his 25 years in the industry, Eric has worn several hats that enable him to leverage his vast amount of knowledge of cutting-edge green building and design to the benefit of his large network of contacts. Prior to joining EcoDistricts, he was and still is Founding Principal of organicARCHITECT, a visionary design leader in biophilic and urban regenerative design, and now returns to the MGBCE for his 10th year to give an address entitled “The Power of Exponential Thinking: Creating the XPRIZE for Healthy Buildings.”
He took some time from his busy (and I mean busy) schedule to speak with us this month ahead of the conference. Continue reading to dive into the future world of green building, as Eric sees it unfolding.
GHB: How did you end up involved with the MGBCE?
Eric Corey Freed This is my 10th time returning as their closing keynote. The LA chapter has always been one of the strongest, most prolific in the country, and I’ve always been friends with Dominique [Hargreaves, USGBC-LA Executive Director] and the board and wanting to support them, but even more importantly, the event itself really becomes this almost ‘check-in’ point every year. You go and you see the entire green building community of LA is there, doing amazing things, and it’s become this thing that I look forward to every year. I use it as a way to try out new material. I present a new talk every year and that’s my talk for the year. I’m going to show my new 2017 talk that no one has seen yet.
GHB: What’re some of your key points in your talk?
ECF: I’m going to show something radically different. I’m going to talk about something I’ve been working on for the last year with the XPrize foundation. We’re essentially trying to grow buildings—literally grow them, the same way nature would grow something, we could do that with buildings. Not only is this in the realm of possibility, but actually within reach. So, I’m going to lay out the case for why we should be growing building, why we should be tapping into nature’s technology, and how our technology that we use to build buildings is, not only is it outdated and we’ve been the same way for 200 years, but is also horribly inefficient. I’m going to basically tell them the story about how we build buildings now and how nature would build buildings and how we need to embrace that and can.
GHB: How do you frame the case for small or production builders that there is a path to this point?
ECF: If we look at what nature does as a technology, it’s really just substituting one for another. For instance, at one point in the talk I show a picture of a building from 1816 and one from today, and it’s the same: little sticks of wood assembled, put together by hand—the same exact technology. But everything around it has changed. Even the way we nail those boards together has changed. But the underlying technology has not and it’s overdue. I’m not trying to put architects, designers, builders out of work, I’m trying to give them a new technology they can embrace and run with. This is very much designed to be a new and better tool in their toolbox—a better way to build. It’s very much designed to fit in with existing technologies, so a portion will be grown and a portion will be built the old way.
GHB: Is this something you can sell them on a bottom dollar concept?
ECF: That’s really the plan. Imagine a building where baked into the DNA of the design is the building code. What if you were able to grow a stair and every step was eight inches high and every rail in it to code? You wouldn’t need building inspectors, and no one’s going to miss them. Job safety would go up. What a contractor is great at is coordination, and this is another tool that aids. Every building would be a healthy building, would absorb carbon, and potentially even create energy. The possibilities are quite unlimited. To me, this is a paradigm shift from the way we’ve been building buildings with the 200 year old technology. It’s a whole new technology for the building industry to use. It’s going to pass us by unless we embrace it…
…and that’s all for now folks, but more to come! If that captured your attention at all (how couldn’t it?), be sure to visit the event website for more information and to register to hear Eric’s talk in person. And be sure to check upcoming issues for the rest of the interview as well!