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Earlier this month, I presented with a panel at the International Living Futures Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. ILFI is the accrediting body for the Living Building Challenge, and each year, they host a conference to bring together individuals from across the country, including architects, designers, engineers, manufacturers, industry leaders, and advocates for healthier buildings and communities.

Catey McClary and Will Ives presenting at the Living Futures Conference.

I was a bit of an outlier at this conference. Not only am I the CEO of an environmental education center – an entirely different industry than most other attendees – but my presentation wasn’t “how to build a Living Building and what we learned from its completion.” Instead, we (Will Ives from Hennebery Eddy, Pete Munoz from Biohabitats and I) presented how to start a Living Building project and what we’ve learned in these beginning stages. This choice reflects our recognition of the profound value in the process – beyond just the finished product – and it reflects our choice to celebrate the process as part of our success.

I was heartened to see a large group of our project team members represented at the conference. McCarty Holsaple McCarty, the local architecture firm on our project team, brought five people (several pictured above) to the conference. I couldn’t help but anticipate how this experience might influence future projects they are working on around the Knoxville community – I could almost visualize the threads of connection growing around us. There’s a feeling of expansion to all of this, and it is exciting.

This conference highlighted one of the early goals we set for this project – to bring new ideas and tangible skills to the industry in our region. We’re building education into every step of the process. We’re not just constructing a physical space, but we’re building a sustainable future.

Thank you for joining us in this process.

Catey McClary
President & CEO
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont