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3 courses about LEED v4

July 27, 2017
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At the beginning of each quarter, USGBC releases the latest LEED addenda. This update includes important interpretations, corrections and pilot credit updates, providing guidance and clarification. Check out this selection of three courses to grow your LEED, green building and sustainability knowledge. 

These courses are ideal for anyone working on a LEED project and those seeking LEED-specific continuing education hours.

  1. LEED for Homes Documentation Tips. Learn about program requirements from Education Partner GreenHome Institute for documenting LEED credits in low-rise and mid-rise programs. 
  2. Everblue Presents: Getting N2 ND—LEED Neighborhood Development. This course from Everblue introduces students to what it means to be a LEED-certified neighborhood and how associating your project can provide more benefits than a conventional development.
  3. LEED v4 and the Irrigation Industry: Opportunities for Success. This USGBC short course highlights opportunities for the irrigation industry and outlines many of the benefits of irrigation-related credits in the LEED BD+C and O+M rating systems. 

Looking for more great courses about the LEED rating system? Check out the LEED v4 Updates Playlist.

Each course on Education @USGBC is available for individual purchase at $45. You can also access the courses through the Education @USGBC subscription.

Subscribe to Education @USGBC

Legislators celebrate 2017 ED-Green Ribbon Schools award winners

July 27, 2017
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Representatives from green schools, school districts and post-secondary institutions across the country came together to celebrate their recognition as 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbons Schools award winners. On July 19, after the official ceremony, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC hosted a reception in the Hart Senate Office Building, overlooking the Capitol dome.

At the reception, the award recipients mingled, wrote thank-you postcards back home, engaged with curriculum content in Learning Lab and submitted commitment cards to participate in the Green Apple Day of Service.  

The ED-Green Ribbons Schools awards honor schools that save money and resources through green practices, create healthy environments for their students and increase understanding of sustainability.

Members of Congress such as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), and Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), came to the event to congratulate award recipients from their districts. Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Green Schools Caucus, took the stage to honor the winning schools and call out a winner near his district in Pennsylvania for their outstanding accomplishments.

“Your work is an important contribution to preserving our environment and resources for future generations—including your own—as well as for improving student and teacher health,” said Costello. “Likewise, your efforts have contributed to the economic health of your communities, saving taxpayer dollars, creating job opportunities and reducing energy consumption."

This year, 63 schools, school districts and post-secondary institutions received awards for their green schools achievements.

Learn more about the honorees

Teacher perspectives on educating for sustainability

July 27, 2017
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Primary and secondary schools around the country are constantly experimenting with new strategies. A common approach is the move away from linear concept teaching to interdisciplinary, hands-on learning that helps prepare students to think critically and better handle a changing world.

With the implementation of this educational pedagogy, we are seeing more and more schools integrating Education for Sustainability, using curriculum on Learning Lab to meet the needs of the 21st century learner and documenting their success through programs such as the Best of Green Schools Award from the Center for Green Schools at USGBC.

For the 2017 Best of Green School winners at Prairie Crossing Charter School (K–8) in Wisconsin, Boston Latin School (6–12) in Massachusetts and Carrboro High School (9–12) in North Carolina, incorporating components of Education for Sustainability into the classroom is something they have been working on for many years, and they see it as critical to their success.

Prairie Crossing Charter School

Prairie Crossing Charter School.

Three teachers and administrators from these award-winning schools share their thoughts on how environmental and sustainability education is serving as a fundamental foundation for their work: 

What does education for sustainability mean to you?

Cate Arnold, an 8th grade U.S. history teacher at Boston Latin School and faculty advisor for the Youth Climate Action Network, believes that “educating for sustainability promotes the understanding that economic issues, social issues and environmental issues are intertwined systems that must always be considered in relation to one another. These skills and complex understandings represent the sort of thinking that that future problem solvers need to have.”

Stefan Klakovich helps his AP environmental science students at Carrboro High School use sustainability as a lens to understand and solve real-world problems by showing them that “each problem we face touches on so many different issues. Politics, economics, values. All need to be addressed to come up with workable solutions.” 

Naomi Hershiser is the Dean of Environmental Learning at Prairie Crossing Charter School, where the environment is at the center of everything they do. Hershiser explains that at Prairie Crossing, they have “always tried to teach environmentally focused, integrated units that foster critical thinking.” One of the most valuable pedagogical tools used at Prairie Crossing is environmental service learning, which engages students to help better their world.

Boston Latin School

Boston Latin School.

What challenges do you face when integrating education for sustainability into your curriculum?

Cate Arnold: According to a recent survey at Boston Latin School, over 90 percent of educators surveyed said sustainability is addressed in their curriculum. The challenge, though, is that climate and sustainability education is not yet a priority or trend at the district level. Arnold is hopeful that it is just a matter of time, as there are definitely people committed to pushing the district in that direction, including a group of active students.

Stephan Klakovich: As a science teacher, Klakovitch strives to help his students develop contextual reasoning that “takes patience to learn the problem, time to develop a solution and time to articulate.” This is a challenge because the breadth of material he must cover before the AP exam limits how much time he can devote to this kind of learning. 

Carrboro High School

Carrboro High School.

How has teaching sustainability impacted your students, school and community?

Cate Arnold: “YouthCAN students...have brought many significant green features to the school, including solar panels, a lighting retrofit, green roof, a school garden, a salad bar, a real-time building energy dashboard, a freight farm, water bottle filling stations and more...We organize an annual schoolwide teach-in on sustainability and host an annual climate and sustainability assembly for all incoming students.”

Stefan Klakovich: Environmental studies students have met their extracurricular service requirement while improving the campus through projects such as a community garden, herb garden, campus reforestation project, bee hives, pollination garden and wildflower garden. Other students have written grants to help fund these projects and organized composting campaigns.

Naomi Hershiser: Multi-disciplinary environmental service learning projects are incorporated into the curriculum. “When our 3rd and 4th grade students decided to grow and donate produce to local food pantries," says Hershiser, "they had to use research and communication skills to find and contact these institutions; reading and math skills to determine the timeline for planting and plant spacing; physical education as they prepped and maintained the gardens; and science concepts were reinforced as they chose seeds and monitored the plants.” 

Learn more about the Best of Green Schools winners

LEED Green Associate Playbook: USGBC events to help you maintain your credential

July 27, 2017
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LEED Green Associates are specialists in today’s sustainable building standards and marketplace. They are knowledgeable about emerging technologies, current industry research and environmental trends.

Like all LEED professionals, LEED Green Associates must maintain their credentials by earning continuing education (CE) hours. Three of these 15 CE hours are required to be LEED-specific, and all must be earned within two years of obtaining the credential. CE hours can be earned in a variety of ways, including project participation, online courses on the Education @USGBC platform and attendance at CE-approved events from GBCI.

USGBC regularly hosts regional conferences, seminars and workshops that are GBCI CE-approved. Mark your calendar with these upcoming events taking place across the U.S. 

Greenbuild International Conference and Expo

Location: Boston, Massachusetts; Mumbai, India; and Shanghai, China
Dates: Fall 2017

Registration is now open in China, India and Boston for Greenbuild 2017, the flagship event for green building professionals.

At Greenbuild, hear inspiring keynotes from business and environmental leaders about the future of green building. Networking opportunities are abound on the expo floor and in sessions, where you can exchange strategies and solutions with architects, engineers, developers, interior designers and others.

Explore the 2017 China and India session programs, and learn more about continuing education opportunities at Greenbuild in Boston. Register today to learn about the latest research, trends and tools to take your green building project to the next level.

Lunch and LEED: Risks and Rewards of Energy Storage

Location: Tempe, Arizona
Date: Wed., Aug. 2

Earn 1 LEED-specific CE hour and 1 AIA learning unit (LU) at this Lunch and LEED seminar by USGBC Arizona about energy storage. In this session, Sharon Bonesteel of the Salt River Project will cover the different types of energy systems, focusing on batteries and other innovative tactics.

She will discuss how energy storage can help commercial, industrial and municipal buildings achieve LEED certification. For more information about this event, contact Chad Billings.

Register for the Lunch and LEED seminar.

LEED v4 BD+C Workshop

Location: Greenwood, Colorado
Fri., Sept. 15

This full-day LEED Building Design and Construction workshop is designed to prepare industry professionals to transition from LEED v2009 to LEED v4, the newest version of LEED. Attendees can earn 8 LEED-specific CE hours and 8 AIA LUs at this USGBC Colorado event.

Led by LEED Fellow and faculty member Brian Dunbar, this workshop will cover LEED topics, including analyses required for LEED credits, integrative strategies and project management. The session also will include interactive breakout sessions.

Early bird pricing ends Aug. 18, and group pricing also is available. Contact Kathryn Lovda for more information.

Register for the LEED workshop.

LEED Breakfast Club

Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Dates: Sept. 19; also held monthly

USGBC Iowa hosts monthly morning presentations where attendees can earn CE hours while enjoying breakfast with other LEED professionals. At the Sept. 19 event, learn about resilient urban transit systems in this one-hour course by the Island Press Urban Resilience Project.

Join USGBC Iowa to receive the member rate for this workshop.

Register for the LEED Breakfast Club.

Explore more USGBC events

USGBC National Capital Region member spotlight: Sandra Leibowitz

July 26, 2017
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How did you get involved in building sustainability?

I got involved at the end of my BA in architecture program in college. I was interested in exploring the connection between the environment and architectural design. I identified myself as an environmentalist, but honestly I almost left the field of architecture because I questioned how I was helping the environment. So, I chose to make sustainable architecture my environmental career! I then focused on it in grad school at the University of Oregon. My first real job was in Washington, D.C. at HOK architects, where I veered away from the design side into more of the research and consulting side.

How and when did you first get involved with USGBC National Capital Region?

The year USGBC National Capital Region was founded, I started going to meetings and joined the programs committee. At that time, I was also heavily involved in Takoma Village Cohousing, a green building and community in D.C. I was on the design committee and became a resident. I was very consumed with the project, ensuring that the green building goals were carried out through construction in a much deeper way than just as a consultant. I was very busy, and unfortunately had to leave the programming committee, but over the years I have attended many National Capital Region events and have appreciated them as a member tremendously.

What do you find most valuable about being a USGBC community member?

The educational courses, networking and connecting with people who are moving policy forward, advocating and expanding the knowledge base of the D.C area. I moved out of D.C., but I’m still involved in the National Capital Region community, along with both the Greater Virginia and Hampton Roads communities. It is great to have the opportunity interact with professionals who share the same passion, including competitors!

How has the landscape changed since you got involved with USGBC National Capital Region?

When I first moved to D.C. in 1996, there were grassroots elements to green building. There was GreenHOME, a nonprofit organization in D.C., and the AIA D.C. chapter Committee on the Environment. USGBC National Capital Region was just beginning, but there was already momentum building. Now there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people involved within the region. There are also many people who are green building generalists—I would love to see more people specializing so National Capital Region has subject matter experts in the less common areas—maybe more indoor air quality specialists and industrial hygienists. Bringing these people into the chapter may mean partnering with universities and research institutions.

Potomac Yard

Sandra Leibowitz was LEED project manager for One and Two Potomac Yard in Arlington, Virginia. These office buildings house several offices of the U.S. EPA and were each certified LEED Gold in 2006. Building One then earned LEED Gold in 2008, and Building Two earned LEED Platinum in 2011.

What's your favorite project that you've worked on in your career?

Besides Takoma Village Cohousing, it’s One and Two Potomac Yard. There were overlapping and complex requirements, including those driven by the U.S. EPA, its primary tenant. We were able to see project through from new construction, into tenant fit-out, to occupancy and through operations and maintenance. We went on to achieve LEED Gold for Operations and Maintenance for one of the buildings and LEED Platinum for O+M for the other. It is rare to take a project from design and construction into its future and daily operations; I really enjoyed that aspect.

What advice do you have for young people starting in the green building industry?

Take initiative to go green yourself. If you have an architecture degree, join a local community, go to sessions and join committees. If you have another degree, engage in some self-study, take an architecture class, take the LEED Green Associate Exam. You have to marry both sides of the equation: the buildings to the environment.

Where should USGBC National Capital Region focus in the Industry?

Health care. It’s so core to the mission of hospitals to heal, but they are behind in developing green initiatives. There’s also absolutely opportunity within medical office buildings; they’re less intense facilities. A green office is a competitive advantage!

Learn more about membership

Planning a more resilient future: Four takeaways from the 2017 Resilient Cities Summit

July 26, 2017
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This article was co-authored by Katharine Burgess, Director, Urban Resilience at the Urban Land Institute, and Cooper Martin, Program Director, Sustainable Cities Institute, National League of Cities.

Last week, an inspirational group of mayors, senior city officials, and nationally recognized experts gathered in Stowe, Vermont, for the 2017 Resilient Cities Summit, hosted by the National League of Cities (NLC), the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Against the scenic backdrop of Stowe’s mountain views and rustic charm, the group of 60 attendees from across the nation discussed how cities can be more prepared for climate risk and achieve a more resilient future.

After a successful 2016 summit focused on successful environmental planning and solutions for sustainable land use, the 2017 summit centered around how to finance resilient infrastructure and implement actions to build more resilient communities. Summit sessions discussed identifying funding sources, prioritizing equity in resilience planning and motivating support for investing in a more resilient city.

While the challenges that attendees face back at home vary from sea level rise and heat islands to earthquakes and severe storms, it was striking how much city leaders found they had in common in their approaches to community resilience. Here are four key takeaways from this year’s summit:

1) Local leaders must be willing to reimagine their city.

At its core, a resilient city is one that is thriving and evolving, rather than simply surviving. Resilient cities are adaptive, competitive and equitable, and this requires local leaders to position their city to respond to changes. Resilient city leaders should have an outlook for infrastructure and land use that incorporates the next 20, 30 or even 50 years, as opposed to a time frame that only extends through the length of their term. This often requires cities to do something they’ve never done before, whether it’s changing how they finance redevelopment projects or how they use data to inform decision-making.

Resilient Cities conference 2017

Mayors Lily Mei of Fremont, California, Dennis Doyle of Beaverton, Oregon, and Mark Mitchel of Tempe, Arizona, join other mayors, city staff and national experts at the 2017 Resilient Cities Summit.

The status quo might be comfortable, and governments are rightfully risk-averse, but elected leaders also have a responsibility to reach for the future. In today’s world, contexts are constantly in flux, whether they are based on economic, social, climatic or other factors. The city that thinks about tomorrow’s risks and vulnerabilities and acts on that future in a collaborative, equitable fashion will ultimately be more resilient.

Read the full article

For third year, District of Columbia ranks number one for Energy Star

July 26, 2017
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For the third year in a row, Washington, D.C., has earned the number one ranking on the U.S. EPA’s annual list of U.S. metropolitan areas with the most buildings certified by Energy Star.

The top cities list ranks metropolitan areas by to the number of buildings earning Energy Star certification in 2016. To qualify, a building must outperform 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide by earning an Energy Star score of 75 or higher on a 100-point scale.

In 2016, 790 D.C.-area buildings earned an Energy Star rating, an increase of 104 buildings over 2015. What does this translate to in energy savings? The Energy Star buildings in D.C. helped the District save $167 million in total energy costs and avoid over 716,000 tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of taking over 151,000 passenger vehicles off the road.

Energy Star's website noted several facts about the D.C. area that may have contributed to its success:

  • A few local school districts contributed almost 280 buildings: Fairfax County Public Schools (151), Prince William County Public Schools (52), Loudoun County Public Schools (57, and Stafford County Public Schools (17).
  • D.C.-area initiatives such as The Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 have aimed to improve the energy efficiency of the area’s commercial buildings. 
  • Other initiatives have included tax credits and a campaign by the downtown D.C. Business Improvement District, the “Smarter Business Challenge.”
  • Federal agencies are only allowed to lease space in Energy Star-certified buildings, which means that landlords may be motivated to earn the rating in order to attract federal tenants.

DC ranks at the top for Energy Star

By the end of 2016, nearly 30,000 buildings across the U.S. had earned EPA’s Energy Star certification. Together, these buildings have saved more than $4 billion on utility bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual electricity use of nearly three million homes. For more information about the 2017 Energy Star Top Cities list, visit

District of Columbia law requires buildings over 50,000 gross square feet to annually report their energy and water performance for public disclosure. This data is then published online.

USGBC recently sent a message to Congress in support of the EPA's Energy Star, WaterSense, and Safer Choice programs. About 500 organizations signed on to the letter, and around 300 sent individual letters to their elected officials in addition.

Learn more about the top cities

From student leader to solar career: One student's story

July 26, 2017
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The Center for Green Schools staff at USGBC are fortunate to hear of many inspiring stories across the country, and Amory Fischer's is one we wanted to share. Fischer recently began a career in the solar industry after leading his former high school through a long journey to put solar PV on its roof. As we work to empower young people to lead our world toward sustainability, his path shows what's possible when a student is inspired to make a difference at school.

Jobs in Virginia’s solar industry grew by 65 percent last year, mine included. However, my interest in solar began well before I received my first private sector paycheck, when I was a student activist brainstorming around an Albemarle High School cafeteria table.

Albemarle High and five other Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) installed a total of 1.1 megawatts in 2016. This was the result of a campaign I launched with community support in spring 2013. Our message was simple—that students supported a solar installation on our school to bring economic savings, educational resources and reduced pollution. To reach our goal, we ran a petition drive, hosted a press conference and made multiple presentations to the school board and board of supervisors.

My favorite moment of the campaign was in late summer 2014, when my sister brought a solar-powered bipedal robot she had made in a summer class and walked it across the desk of the board of supervisors to prove solar power worked. Being addressed by a passionate and well-spoken eighth grader was all the board could talk about for weeks.

And it was enough to move the needle. In fall 2014, Albemarle County Public Schools issued a request for proposals for a solar power purchase agreement. After a unanimous vote by the school board, a contract was awarded in May 2015 to Secure Futures, a solar development company based in Staunton, Virginia.

Terry McAuliffe dedicates the solar panels at ACPS

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe dedicates the solar panels at ACPS with Superintendent Dr. Pam Moran, Secure Futures CEO Tony Smith, Amory Fischer and students at Monticello High School on October 20, 2016.

Without fully understanding it at the time, my passion to build a more sustainable economic and environmental future for all, starting with solar at my school, was driving me to learn valuable life skills that would useful in my career: public speaking, working with the press media, persuasive writing and [familiarizing myself] with the public procurement process and the economic details of solar projects.

After Secure Futures won the RFP, they brought me on as an intern to learn the ropes of solar development. When I graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in environmental policy and planning in 2016, Secure Futures hired me full-time to bring the message of solar benefits across the state.

That fall, I climbed on the roof of my high school to conduct an inspection that would maintain the roof warranty under their new solar array. Three hundred and sixty solar panels sparkled in the morning sun as students practiced on the sports fields and chatted in the breezeway. Somewhere, the light and sound equipment in my sister’s choir class were being run by solar energy. Our project had come full circle.

Amory Fischer

Amory Fischer at a solar array installation in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

In June 2017, I found myself wearing a suit and tie in a school board meeting at a rural school district outside of Richmond, Virginia. I was there to offer technical support to several high school student leaders at the podium, who were giving a pitch about how solar energy could bring economic, educational and environmental benefits to their school.

One student leader, a graduating senior, has just been hired by a local solar company for a summer internship to learn if a career in solar is right for her. One day, I hope she will be able to write an article like this one.

Feature image: Secure Futures' 224 kW solar array at Baker-Butler Elementary School in Albemarle County. Photo credit: Grant Gotlinger.

Arena Stage and the Southwest Waterfront (USGBC National Capital Region)

July 25, 2017
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For the second year in a row, USGBC National Capital Region hosted its annual A Midsummer Night’s Green at the Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. This event is the premier summer social for the Washington, D.C., green building community. Arena Stage’s location in the Southwest Waterfront—a neighborhood that is quickly evolving into one of the District’s most exciting new areas—as well as the venue’s history, makes it the perfect location for hosting this event.  

Arena Stage is a not-for-profit theater, and was one of first of its kind in the United States, known for being a pioneer of the regional theater movement. Each year, Arena Stage welcomes more than 300,000 audience members through its doors to enjoy productions in its three theaters. 

Arena Stage

Established as a company in 1950, the theater company had its building located in the Southwest Waterfront originally constructed in 1960. More recently, the complex underwent a two-year, $135 million renovation pioneered by the team of Bing Thom Architects and Fast + Epp consulting engineers.

Through the renovation, the team designed the main columns for the building, while leaving the two larger theaters, The Fichlandler Stage and the Kreeger Theater, largely untouched. The theaters’ connecting structures were demolished and are now surrounded by a glass curtain wall and incorporated into a larger building. Additionally, the renovation included the construction of the Kogod Cradle Theater, where USGBC National Capital Region held its annual awards for the second year in a row. Following this renovation, Arena Stage has become the second largest performing arts center in the District, after the Kennedy Center.

For the past three years, the team at Arena Stage has watched the formation of the city’s largest new development, dubbed The Wharf, from across the street. The project is led by the development team of PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette. Not only is this development the largest in the city, it is one of the largest along the East Coast, encompassing over a mile of shoreline and 24,000 acres of space. Opening ceremonies for Phase I of this project are planned for this October. Phase I will include new apartment towers and condos, hotels, piers, restaurants and a 6,000-seat concert venue. Plans for Phase II of this project were just submitted earlier this year and have proposed an additional 1.2 million square feet of new buildings.

The Wharf on the Southeast D.C. waterfront

Image provided by The Wharf.

Although new development is nothing new to the District and its surrounding areas, something unique about The Wharf is that the Hoffman-Madison Waterfront group has committed to building the project with sustainability in mind, in order to develop the neighborhood into a lasting waterfront community.

The entire Wharf development has been designed to achieve and is seeking LEED Gold under LEED for Neighborhood Development, and individual buildings are designed to achieve LEED Gold or Silver. The project includes public parks and piers to encourage the surrounding community to enjoy the waterfront. Also, the development will include multiple forms of on-site sustainable energy production, including a cogeneration plant and solar PV systems. 

USGBC National Capital Region is excited to be host this year’s event again at Arena Stage, in a neighborhood that so many in the green building and the commercial real estate community have seen evolve over the past three years. 

Drawdown and LEED: Alignment in climate change solutions

July 25, 2017
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The best-selling book Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken, offers a model for "the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming." The goal of the research presented in the book is to find out whether human beings can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within the next 30 years. 

In the USGBC customer service department, we've been reading this book with interest, and have noticed overlaps between the actions that the authors identify as most critical and the emphasis on certain credits in LEED and other GBCI rating systems. 

For example, the first solution in the book is Refrigerant Management, a concept that is reinforced by the LEED prerequisite Fundamental Refrigerant Management and the LEED credit Enhanced Refrigerant Management.

Here are a few more examples of similar solutions:

LEED green building offers solutions to the climate problems we are facing, in a way that aligns with what researchers have discovered about our top priorities in ensuring a sustainable human impact on the Earth.

At the 2014 opening plenary of Greenbuild, Paul Hawken discussed the Drawdown project. Watch our video from the event to learn more:


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