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Q&A with Allen Weidman, InfoComm International

Here's how important sustainbility if to InfoComm and the pro AV community: InfoComm recently hired a dedicated sustainability officer. Read about how he's approaching his job.

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Credit: John Whitman

ALLEN WEIDMAN, INFOCOMM INTERNATIONAL: As the pro AV industry's biggest trade association works to finish off its Sustainable Technology Environments Program (STEP), it has hired its first-ever sustainability officer to champion the cause and look out for the industry's interests within the much larger green construction movement. Weidman has an extensive background working with trade associations on sustainability initiatives. It turns out he has his eye on one specific green-building program you may not know about.

PRO AV: What does it say about InfoComm that they created your position and what exactly will you be doing for the organization?

WEIDMAN: Having been in the trade-association business for 30 years, it borders on avant-garde that InfoComm has created this position. It's very progressive and enlightened, and it was generated by the members' interest in sustainability. A lot of corporations don't have sustainability officers. So at InfoComm, I have three main jobs. First, I'm going to be InfoComm's representative to other organizations. Second, I'll be informing the industry about sustainability activities. And third, I'm going to roll out, operate, and refine the STEP program. In my spare time, I'll be responsible for InfoComm's sustainability program both within our office and at the trade show.

PRO AV: InfoComm essentially initiated the STEP rating program because it had a hard time engaging the U.S. Green Building Council. With STEP in hand, will you try and reengage the USGBC?

WEIDMAN: Absolutely. And there are a number of other groups to engage with, too. But there's one especially important document out there now, the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), that I'm participating in. What's significant about it is that it's being promulgated by the International Code Council and has the potential, when it's published, to be adopted by 22,000 jurisdictions in the U.S. Unlike the USGBC's LEED program and some others, which are voluntary, the IGCC has the potential to be mandatory. And what those folks are up to is scary, because the logic they're using is not good business logic. This is our opportunity as an industry to conduct some social reengineering. LEED is terrific, and we will certainly go back and work with the USGBC, but the battleground is really going to be over the IGCC.

PRO AV: What is it about the IGCC that could have implications for the pro AV industry?

WEIDMAN: We don't know all the implications yet. But for example, it may require some metering of all outlets in a building. And the Environmental Protection Agency is pushing hard not only on the concern about [toxic] building materials, but also applying that concern to products that come in after the certificate of occupancy. In fact, they have a clause in this code that requires the building inspector to come in 30 months after the certificate of occupancy to inspect for elements of the IGCC. So building commissioning, shading, lighting levels—these are areas where a bunch of things are going on that our industry needs to be aware of and understand so we can take positions on them if necessary. Imagine a smart grid connected to a submetered outlet that says you've used enough energy just as you start an AV program. Or your signage suddenly turns off. Or shades automatically go up because a sensor sees that sunlight has hit a particular window. We as an industry aren't yet accounted for in all this.

PRO AV: Can you take something like STEP to the IGCC or the USGBC to start to explain how the AV industry approaches sustainability? And is there any reason to think we'll have more success with the IGCC than we did with the USGBC?

WEIDMAN: Yes and yes. First, the IGCC is probably a more important audience for STEP immediately than the rest of the InfoComm membership. That's why I say this is such a progressive thing for the industry to be doing. As for working with the committee that's writing the IGCC, there are a number of opportunities to find allies. The American Institute of Architects is a co-sponsor of the IGCC. So is the Illuminating Engineering Society and even the USGBC. And there's a truckload of consultants, designers, and engineers who have awoken to this.

PRO AV: When will the IGCC be finished and how quickly will we feel its impact?

WEIDMAN: 2012 is when it's supposed to be published. They're in version two of the draft and it's already been adopted by some jurisdictions as a guideline. They'll have a meeting of their membership in November and vote up or down on the code. Initially, it was anticipated that the code would cause so much grief for local code guys and inspectors that it didn't stand a chance of passing. But the word we're getting is that their administrators—their bosses, the city councils, state legislators—want a code that can address sustainability and green building. So we're fairly certain it's going to pass, though maybe not in this form. It becomes an official code when a local jurisdiction writes it into law. The big problem is not every one of those 22,000 jurisdictions adopts code at the same time.

PRO AV: As the InfoComm group that's writing the STEP system has been diligently working, has green AV lost any momentum?

WEIDMAN: Well, I read an article recently that compared the number of times "green" showed up in advertising in 2010 versus 2009 and there seemed to be a downturn. But I'm less concerned about green than I am about sustainability. The messages we're going to present to members are that this is where business is heading, and that it's a significant opportunity. Intelligent buildings are going to change the marketplace and the AV industry has the opportunity to humanize the intelligent building. We can provide information to occupants that's missing in a LEED building, for example. And clients are going to demand more sustainable systems over time. Keep in mind, the wild card in all this is Walmart. Through the company's sustainability consortium, they are going to affect the way people buy products of all kinds. Think about the billions of product impressions in a Walmart store each year and now think what would happen if each product they sell had a sustainability index tag, how is it going to change the way peple think about the buildings they work and live in, let alone the products they buy?

Sustainability is here to stay, even if we don't know what it's final form will be. But it starts with doing something like the STEP program, which really tells the industry that sustainability has value and gives the industry an idea of where we're headed.

InfoComm will host the Sustainability Standards Liaisons Forum at the InfoComm trade show Tuesday, June 14, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m in room W307 of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. The session is worth seven renewal units.

 


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