Saturday, September 7, 2013

Chicago-Hamburg Business Forum & Adventures

June 4. Best Day.

So today I went to a Chicago/Hamburg business forum that focused on sustainable cities. I woke up at 6:20, made it to the train station to meet my mentor Anke at 7:45 to take a 7:55 train, but I couldn't find her on the platform. I knew we were going to Veddel (Pronounces "feddle" like meddle) on an S3 train so I figured maybe I'd meet her on the platform there. Just as I'm getting on the train she pops up from the inside of the car and welcomes me in. Foolish me went to the main train station to meet her instead at a different one we had agreed on (Jungfernstieg). And it turns out she was mistaken about Veddel, we really were getting off in Wilhelmsburg.

Wilhelmsburg is one of the largest if not the largest islands in the middle of the Elbe River. Technically part of Hamburg, as I understand it, most people really only consider the North Shore Hamburg. In WW2 the air raids that bombed Hamburg came from the south an so Wilhelmsburg received a lot of damage from bombs dropped too soon. A lot of ruins still remained until a decade or so ago when they were cleaned up to redevelop some areas. The population of the island is much more diverse then the rest of Hamburg with lots of middle Eastern and African people. (Additional fact - when I got lost Tuesday night I overheard that Hamburg has one of the if not the largest Iranian populations in Germany/Europe/world). So I met Anke and her friend and former student Janina (pronounced yea-Nina) on the train and we went to Wilhelmsburg to hear some lectures at the conference and take a tour of IBA (an international building expo Hamburg put on) and later that night to take a boat tour al of the river. Next to the IBA was an international Garden Exhibit - one of 80 gardens around the world. 

The IBA consists of all these new apartments and a few other buildings designed to use 50% less energy then conventional buildings and are geared towards a middle class market (at least I think I caught that correctly). We went to this new hotel (paneled all over in wood - rare in Europe in being used as a building material), checked in, picked up some literature and then sat down and waited for the lectures to start. During this time I tried a Rhubarb-soda-juice that was strange. Not bad, but not a flavor I'm used to. I'll try it again sometime but I think it'll be a bit before then. The lectures were good - some German presenters and one or two Americans, but I was tired (5hrs of sleep) and I already knew some of the information so I had a bit of trouble focusing at first. One American presenter, this young guy named Peter, was pretty high up for their energy efficient buildings sector. The company CNT advises new homeowners on how to improve the efficient of their new homes (to take out extra money when getting a loan for the morgage for capital improvements that will have operational cost benefits), they do energy audits, install smart meters, and do "Tupperware parties" in communities to raise building performance awareness. They are building focused, not so much community focused (at least in practice) but the engagement piece is there so that's interesting. :) after a coffee break the lecturers were joined by 3 other members of the Hamburg/Chicago Chamber of commerce for a panel discussion. The moderator, a German journalist with a tiny face gave excellent questions. On the panel was a woman named Lois who is a LEED Fellow, Chief Sustainability Officer for a large company, an AIA member, and one of the top people in Greenbuild. I asked her and the rest of the panel a question pertaining to the implementation of Smartgrids and what has been implemented in Chicago beyond smart meters and I'm guessing sensors. The answer I got was that right now it's mostly data collection...

Lunch was a served buffet of soup and gnocchi/potatoes (I had beef stoganoff and rosemary potatoes) and desert was like a parfete and I chose lemon with Fresh German strawberries ontop (apparently they just came into season). Furring lunch I talked to Peter, a man named Daniel who is a Carnegie Mellon Alumn of Physics and is now a patent lawyer (he was president of BETA back in his day, but I steered the conversation away from that topic). I also talked with a man named Jurgen, who invited me to a dinner the next night put on by the American International Society in Hamburg (more on that soon). And then we all went on a tour of the IBA. Some really cool buildings - one that does photosynthesis with algae panels, one thats concept was that apartment owners would build their own walls and be able to completely design their apartments themselves (so the building would be all different colors) but that doesn't look like its happening. Also part of the tour was going around Wilhelmsburg to check out a few of the really cool energy projects they have done so far on the island. There is an old WW2 Bunker the Nazi's built that the British tried to blow up with TNT after taking Hamburg but to no avail. Now inside there is a giant water storage tank to contain heat in the summer to be released in the winter (part of their district heating system. And ontop are tons of solar panels. We also went to "Energy Hill" where there are a bunch of solar panels and a few wind turbines over what used to be a toxic waste dump which has been contained. At night we all went on an all you can eat and drink boat tour of the harbor where I had somany really great conversations (one with a German head-hunter for Green Tech. companies). I got to see giant cargo ships being unloaded by huge cranes, went past the Airbus factory, and saw a really cool biogas digester plant!

Great first week!

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