By Jill Ralph. The time will come when, if you're going to be a developer, you're going to have to be an energy producer." That vision, from John Knott Jr., CEO of the Noisette Co., an urban planner in North Charleston, S.C., and others supporting sustainable housing initiatives were among the insights shared at the fifth annual Green Building Conference in Baltimore, Md.

Six hundred people and about 60 exhibitors explored energy production and conservation; recycled materials; and environmentally-friendly technologies and appliances, coupled with cutting-edge designs built on brownfields, landfills, and infills.

Joyce Mason, vice president of marketing at Pardee Homes, said she was particularly impressed with improvements in insulation products and innovative recycling techniques, such as window louvers made of salvaged pickle barrel staves.

The conference, sponsored by the research department of the NAHB — its only conference devoted solely to environmentally-sound building practices — unfortunately attracted few big builders. That may change. The NAHB itself will be taking over the conference from its research department, and that change will probably mean that new considerations are in the offing, starting next year, when the gathering convenes in Austin, Texas.

Rich Dooley, environmental analyst/land use planner for green building programs at the NAHB Research Center, noted that the conference, until now, did not distinguish between small and large builders, or between high-end homes and mobile homes. "We used to reach out to the mainstream home builder who built 15 homes or fewer a year. But with the consolidation of the industry, there are more large builders to consider when advocating green building solutions," he said. Big builders set their own institutional norms and work practices, Dooley said, adding that a separate track at the conference might be warranted to explicitly address big builders.

Neil Gaffney, director of environmental communications at the NAHB, will be working on content for next year's conference. "Through education and innovation, we can build green without regulation," he said. Pardee's Mason added: "If more big builders went to this conference, I think we'd see more materials that would be good for our style of building."

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Charleston, SC.