It’s almost time for DesignColumbus, Central Ohio’s annual educational event and expo. The DesignColumbus story is similar to that of many trade shows across the U.S. Hosted by the USGBC-Central Ohio Chapter (USGBC-COH) and the Construction Specifications Institute Columbus Chapter, DesignColumbus continues to grow. Here the DesignColumbus planning committee talks to Doug Widener, Director, Community Advancement at the USGBC, about the regional trade show trend.

Regional trade shows for the building industry are flourishing. In part this is because they are able to harness the power of the digital age for their planning efforts; connectivity and rapid information transfer are helping regional shows achieve a previously unheard of scale and range of events. But their strength is old-fashioned, face-to-face interaction.

“The value we’re seeing with local trade shows is very much akin to the value of USGBC chapter progress in general,” said Widener. “They connect a region with experts that have information to share. The shows set a context.”

Widener sees successful show growth across the U.S., with each show being organized according to a slightly different model. Some shows have a reach that extends across a multi-state area. For example, Greening the Heartland, which used to travel to different host cities in the Midwest, settled on Chicago as a permanent home about three years ago and has transformed into Building the Heartland, a bigger and more robust event. Building the Heartland has green building as a component of its overall message, and is done in partnership with AIA Chicago. It attracts attendees from across the Midwest. Similarly, USGBC chapters and other partners in the American Southwest combine forces to host an educational event. In other locations, USGBC chapters host their own shows – for example, Minnesota will soon host Impact 2015 and Colorado will host Rocky Mountain Green.

No matter what organizational model these shows follow, one key to their success is bringing in national speakers. Gaining access to national speakers gives show attendees an affordable option for tapping into a broader knowledge base. Offering a full slate of educational events – especially if they earn attendees professional credits – is also important for show growth and success. And the ability for industry organizations to partner, working together to host an event, helps those events scale up, becoming bigger and better each year.

Another important aspect of local trade shows is their ability to focus on the special concerns of an individual region. The USGBC South Florida Chapter, for example, created Tropical Green, an all-day education conference focused on communicating best practices for building successful communities and buildings in a humid, temperate environment.

“Tropical Green attracted attendees from cities throughout the area – including the Caribbean — that have these specialized, local issues,” said Widener.
Other examples of topics that are particularly popular in certain regions are resiliency to storms and water conservation.

As for DesignColumbus, some of this year’s topics that speak directly to our region’s building industry professionals include: high speed rail in the Midwest, repurposing historic structures, and building within our urban contexts. For a full roster of events, check out our presentation schedule here.

Plan to attend DesignColumbus 2015 at COSI in Columbus, Ohio on April 20 – or attend a show in your area – to take advantage of what they have to offer.


This year’s keynote speaker, Doug Kridler, is sponsored by The Columbus Foundation’s Green Funds.

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