powell“Colin Powell is … an interesting choice for a convention on green building,”  said George Baños, a project manager attending the industry’s largest annual gathering.

Baños was one of thousands of people who assembled in a hangar-sized auditorium at McCormick Place near downtown Chicago this morning to hear the former Secretary of State’s opening address to Greenbuild 2010, a showcase for the latest innovations in green building.

Powell acknowledged he wasn’t an obvious choice.

“All of you should be saying to yourself,” Powell said in opening,  ”‘Excuse me, isn’t this guy an infantry officer, the former Secretary of State? What does he know about green building?’”

A lot more than you think, was his answer.

“I am trying to do my part,” Powell said. “One of the core focuses of my life is to get involved in what is going on in the world with respect to the environment.”

Powell talked about his role in building a 50-unit residential building three blocks from his childhood neighborhood in the Bronx that qualified for a LEED Platinum environmental-rating.