A Glimpse of My Future: Networking in Toronto at the 2030 Districts Summit

by Aurora Namnum, Ithaca 2030 District Intern
 
The 4th annual 2030 Districts Network Summit was held in Toronto on September 21-22. As a college student, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I would be the youngest one there, and that worried me. Would people take me seriously, an 18-year-old trying to make it in a world with established engineers and policy makers? Luckily they did, making for one of the most educational experiences of my life to date.
 
Here's a little background on Architecture 2030 itself. It is a nonprofit organization with two major goals for the built environment:
  1. Reduction in global fossil fuel consumption and GHG emissions
  2. The development of an adaptive and resilient built environment
And how are these goals achieved? In working with the initiative in Ithaca for 8 months, I thought the most effective way involved the collaboration between the public and private sectors within the city itself. But after attending this conference, I now know that what keeps this project successful is the strong network between participating districts. Having the experience of older districts and the unique outlook of newer districts is what keeps the project moving. These differing perspectives are brought together annually at the Summit, allowing for exponential innovation in a short period of time.
 
When the morning of the 21st arrived, I couldn't decide whether I was nervous or excited. With my fellow members of the Ithaca 2030 District, I walked over to the Lodge on Queen, where we would be spending the majority of our time the next few days. We arrived at what appeared to be an old apartment building, and headed inside to see what awaited us. Much to my surprise, we walked into a spacious room with beautifully exposed brick walls and chandeliers. I was very impressed that they managed to keep the old-fashioned feel with the elegant renovation.
 
We had about a half hour for breakfast and mingling, and then everyone gathered together for a quick welcome from Dave Low, the 2030 Network Liaison. This was followed by the executive directors from each of the 13 existing districts sharing a little bit about what they have been doing to meet the 2030 goals. Then Nils Larsson gave a presentation on the International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment (iiSBE), and moving performance analysis from buildings to small urban areas. 
 
After a quick update about the network's new governance, it was time for lunch. This was my first chance to network, and meet people doing so many great things. One person that stuck out to me is Joyce Lee, president of IndigoJLD.  She is working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop an ENERGY STAR score for museums, giving museums a chance to assess their performance based on similar buildings nationwide.
 
After lunch we split for two sessions, one more on the technical side and one more on the marketing/public relations side. I chose to attend the technical sessions, since I have been doing data collection and analysis for Ithaca. Isaac Smith, the Building Performance Analyst from the Pittsburgh 2030 District, presented on how they have gone about measuring transportation and water metrics. 
 
The structure of these presentations was very interesting. Instead of being formatted as a lecture, it was more like a discussion. This allowed us all to be aware of each other's opinions on how to approach things, and to learn from each other. This was especially helpful for me, since Ithaca is just starting out as a district and any advice is helpful. 
 
The final technical session was led by Isabella McKnight, the Program Manager of the Cleveland 2030 District. She shared the reporting system that her district has been using. They customize reports based on property owner's needs; some like to see the impacts of their efficiency projects, and others like to use performance metrics as means of fundraising. The reports she showed were beautifully formatted, and gave me a great basis for how to make my own when the time comes.
 
The next day had a similar format; we had breakfast, broke up into groups based on what we were interested in, and had discussions. Unfortunately, we had to leave early to beat rush hour traffic, so we missed a couple of the sessions. But we got to experience a very exciting event before we left: Austin, Texas and Portland, Maine being signed on as official districts! This brought the count to 15 districts in North America, seven more than where we were at the beginning of the year.
 
After reflecting on my experience at the 2030 District Summit, I can honestly say that it was one of the most important events in my life so far. I was surrounded by people that were just as passionate as me. I got to learn about their various perspectives, and about what they believed was the best approach to the 2030 Challenge and for ultimately combating climate change. I was given advice on how to go about looking for jobs, and how to advance my career. And most importantly, I made valuable connections with people that can continually support me and help me accomplish my goals. I'm so thankful that I was given the opportunity, and cannot wait to use what I learned to make the world a better place.