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You’d be hard pressed to have been in Florida this past week as a participant at School Building Expo to say that it’s a ’start-up’ with only 1 previous year under its belt. Simply too many reasons to assume it’s been around for decades. And certainly suggestive, in our opinion, that School Building Expo will become one of the must-attend events for school planners/builders and their partners in the years to come.

Also appreciated seeing that the AIA CAE (Committee on Architecture for Education) leadership team made the decision to have one of their 2 annual national conferences at the Expo. Everyone that was in attendance were also given the opportunity to see this year’s winners of the annual CAE School Design Awards as well. Some truly inspired projects in story, project intentions, and images! Hopefully we’ll see CAE teaming up again with Expo in 2008 in Chicago.

But given the wide array of school planning/design/construction conferences that each of us considers attending, sponsoring, or speaking at here in the US, time only allows so many choices. And you have to applaud the planning team of this very relative ‘upstart’ event for putting on a show that so successfully gathered such a large and diverse audience of professional leaders from around the school design planet for 3 days of pushing hard on the key questions in our industry. Looking around the keynotes, the workshop sessions, and the trade show floor, it was hard to find any of the key leaders not represented on some level.

Besides the quality of the participants, DesignShare was intrigued by the Expo’s ability to bring together passionate manufacturers as well as key design thought leaders, while most conferences tend to lean one way or the other. Scott Goldman and team have a knack for being entrepreneurial and inspired. It’s no wonder so many folks made the trip down to Florida to take part. As with so many things in life, passion comes from individuals who have vision and a knack for bringing together a very diverse set of stakeholders.

We were also interested in playing a role ourselves when Scott began to suggest that there was a way to re-design how conversations could take place at conferences. And how a traditional trade show floor could become ground zero for passionate thought leaders coming together after keynotes and workshops to push harder on key topics/questions. When they asked if we’d be willing to add our name to the idea of an “Expert Bar”, it was a no-brainer because Scott and the entire Expo team understood that people will talk openly if they have a place to relax and get comfortable first. You certainly have to appreciate the decision to invite a talented cellist to set a tone for all those who stopped by for conversation. And the coffee, too!

Even better when the majority of key speakers were given specific time slots to meet at the “Expert Bar” to meet audience members who were equally passionate about the topics/presentations, including (to name only a few who stopped by during the Expo):

  • Dr Catherine Burke BA, M.ED, PhD (Senior Lecturer, The University of Leeds, author of The School I’d Like which brings student/kid voices back into the discussion)
  • Lindsay Baker (US Green Building Council) and Robert Kobet, AIA (US Green Building Coucil LEED for Schools Committee)
  • Dr. Dieter Breithecker (Germany-based and internationally renowned Sport & Movement Scientist)
  • Jim Dyck (passionate advocate for Montessori designs and President, The Architectural Partnership)
  • Dr. Jeff Lackney (author of 33 Principles of Educational Design, planner/architect at Fielding/Nair International)
  • Kirk Meyer (Executive Director, Boston Schoolyard Funders Collaborative)

Looking forward to next year’s School Building Expo in Chicago and seeing who will stop by the “DesignShare Expert Bar” in the spirit of fueling passionate and innovative school design conversation.

Want to get involved yourself? Send Scott Goldman an email ( or call his Expo team (800.746.9646 ) if you’re interested in participating, sponsoring, or getting involved in a variety of ways in 2008.

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