GRCC student group hosts Midwest Sustainability Conference



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications

(616) 234-4213

Feb. 8, 2016 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Learn how building projects can be both "restorative" and "regenerative" in a conference hosted by Grand Rapids Community College's US Green Building Council student group.

The Midwest Sustainability Conference, hosted by GRCC, the USGBC student organization and the West Michigan Chapter of the US Green Building Council, runs Feb. 19 through 21.

The conference theme -- "Restorative & Regenerative" -- focuses on projects that have a healthy impact on the environment and the people who live, work and play in them. Sessions will look at energy conservation, sustainable design, urban gardens and other green building topics.

The event is open to everyone. College and high school students and professionals in construction, facilities management, design and other building-related fields are especially encouraged to attend. 

Trenida Charlton, president of the US Green Building Council student group, said the session topics will be relevant to many professionals and students.

"The first time I attended a conference like this, it helped me realize that sustainability is not just about green buildings -- it is about restorative design, health care, community and so much more," she said. "Sustainability is something we can all play a role in. Getting involved in an opportunity like this allows you to find where you can help make a difference."

Hanna Jeffers, the group’s vice president, agreed: "I think anyone who comes to the conference will take away from it, whether they use what they learn to better their lives and home, their career, or their business. I've been encouraging everyone -- from students pursuing business, engineering, manufacturing, construction management, facilities management, architecture, and more -- to come because I think that learning about what is emerging in the world of sustainability is relevant to everyone."

The event also includes the premier of USGBC's ADVANCE Institute, which will train 20 to 30 "ambassadors" in how to help nonprofit and other organizations create and operate in a more sustainable manner. Applications for the institute will be accepted until Feb. 12.

"The ADVANCE workshop seeks to increase access to resources and expertise for new or under-served or under-represented groups," said Charlotte Pease, assistant professor of mechanical and architectural design, and the student group's adviser. "Participants will be provided with the tools and know-how to help these community organizations improve their stewardship of their health and energy resources."

Sayed Zawad, secretary for the US Green Building Council student group, is especially excited about participating in the ADVANCE Institute.

"It gives you an edge by adding cutting-edge tools to your belt," Zawad said. "Ambassadors learn the art of driving community impact, develop a deep understanding USGBC social equity framework, and build a 12-month strategy to deliver solutions to the communities and places they love."

Jeffers said she's looking forward to the tours of area buildings.

"Tours are my favorite because I love hearing why something was designed this way or that, and how it all ties together,” she said. “I have lived in Grand Rapids my whole life, and it amazes me how much I continue to learn about our city and its businesses."

Eric Corey Freed, a licensed architect and a leader in biophilic and regenerative design, will give the conference's keynote address: "The Seven Secrets of How Nature Designs: How to Apply the Lessons of Biomimicry to Your Business." Cheri Holman, executive director of the US Green Building Council of West Michigan, will give the opening presentation, and GRCC President Dr. Steven C. Ender will give the welcoming remarks.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.