Mr. Butler Goes To Paris – Part III

by Geoffrey Butler, AIA

Presentation Day – Friday, November 20, 2009

I had an interesting dinner Thursday night. Gordon Schultz from Wichita is here to speak about the Greensburg, KS rebuilding with LEED experience. Robert I. Bell, the Chairman of the Dept. of Economics at Brooklyn College (he wrote a book called The Green Bubble) was here as well. We go into some long discussions on all sorts of things. Both these guys are professors, so, needless to say, they had opinions on everything and could debate all sorts of things. It is rare that I can’t dominate the conversation, but there were times that all I could do was sip my wine and listen.

Robert is really big on the “Passive House” approach over the LEED thing. See:

http://www.passivehouse.us/passiveHouse/PassiveHouseInfo.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_house

He does not like the bureaucracy and cost of the LEED approach and prefers a passive approach. It might be worth it for design professionals to research that approach and to be able to offer the two approaches to clients.

The dinner lasted late into the night mostly because we did not start dinner until 10:30.  They really don’t do things early here. However, the discussions and debate also took a normal one hour meal into a three hour session.  The French all insist on dessert, too.  Lots of courses, not big portions.  The pace is such that you could probably digest a course before the next one appeared.  Copious amounts of wine, of course. 

Jack Pelton, the CEO of Cessna, flew in Thursday night after traveling to China and Dubai. He joined us for breakfast Friday and will be speaking on the aviation community’s commitment to sustainability and clean air.

Phillippa said that a lot of what they do with this event is to collect a broad spectrum of speakers on global and regional sustainable water and air issues for this show.  After the event, they send out all sorts of press releases, reports, etc. over the following several months. The summary of this Symposium will be submitted to the appropriate department of the French Government.

Friday’s schedule included a lunch meeting scheduled to start at 1 p.m., we were to do a press conference before that and presentations starting at 2:30.  We got to lunch about 1:30.  They had a leisurely lunch – three full courses including dessert and wine.  We finished up about 3:00 PM

I was to speak at 5 p.m. but with the late start that got delayed until 5:30 and we did not wrap up the presentations until almost 7 pm. The speakers were all interesting and talked about cap and trade, the Kyoto Compact, global warming, and the economic ramifications of action or inaction.  We had translators for those of us not from France and vice versa.

Gordon Shultz made his presentation which was a change from the global stuff.  Then, I did my fifteen minute show.  I had a 27 page paper which I had condensed down to 32 slides and then I had to present it in 15 minutes.  That poor translator probably missed half of it I was going so fast.  I got it all in though.  I was the only one there talking about private enterprise doing something sustainable which was an interesting approach.  Most of the others were addressing governmental initiatives.  I started out by answering the question:  “Why should we do a sustainable development?”  My response was: “Because it is the right thing to do.”  They liked that a lot.

Later that evening they had the Oxygen Awards at the Casino at 8 p.m.  These awards are interesting as they recognize individuals, companies and groups for their effort to improve the air and water quality.  Virtually all of the presentations were in French.  The host was Jean Claude, the head of the organization who put together the symposium.  He had a “side kick” who was a local celebrity.  Jean Claude was the straight man and the celebrity was more of the comical element.  Each presentation includes information about the recipient and what they did or were doing.  Then they had some sort of audience participation with voting buttons in the audience.  I was pretty clueless not speaking any French and this was not translated. Everyone was having a good time and there were lots of chuckles as each received their awards.  I even laughed simply because they were so animated.  Gordon Schultz went up and received an award for Greensburg, Kansas for their efforts as well.  Interesting approach to some serious effort.

Later, about 10:30, Jean Claude took the international speakers out to a fine dinner at a restaurant on the Lake.  It was another French eating experience, Wine, appetizers, Entrée and more.  There was lots of debate about the economy, sustainability and even the US health care plan.  An attaché from the US Embassy and his assistant were with us and when I finally left to go to bed about 1 a.m., they were neck deep in debate on the French Health Care system compared to the proposed US plan.

It was a busy Friday.