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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

GWCC LEED certification showcases sustainability leadership

Georgia World Congress Center
On October 28, 2014 the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) announced the 3.9 million square feet conference center was awarded LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Tim Trefzer, GWCC director of sustainability, presented the certification at the monthly GWCC Board Meeting to an enthusiastic audience.

The announcement thrusts Atlanta into the national | global sustainability spotlight as home to the world's largest LEED certified convention center AND the 14th largest LEED certified building. The GWCC LEED Silver certification is a monumental achievement with far reaching environmental and economic implications!

GWCC Board Chair Tom Lowe
congratulating Tim 
LEED - Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design - is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices within the USGBC umbrella.To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different certification levels. For a pre-existing building, LEED certification is often a multi-year endeavor.

In 2005 the GWCC began investigating the feasibility of green building certifications for a facility first opened in 1976 with 750,000 square feet. By 2008, the GWCC started recycling OCC - old corrugated cardboard - and embarked on an energy conservation program. With perfect timing in late 2008, the GWCC was the first Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) Founding Participant to join the program.

On February 10, 2009 the GWCC hosted the acclaimed ZWZ press conference launching the groundbreaking program. Later in the day, all food related to the Meeting Planners International (MPI) 1200-person luncheon hosted at the GWCC was either consumed, donated or collected for compost - NONE went to the landfill!

ZWZ Chair Laura Turner Seydel
@ ZWZ press conference hosted
Thus, the GWCC was the foundation for Atlanta's first sustainability spotlight with significant media including: 1> City Aims for Zero Waste CNN story aired prime time in national and global markets during Earth Week 2009 and 2> Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None New York Times front-page article in October, 2009.

Atlanta, via the ZWZ, was THE national leader in the commercial collection of food waste for compost and has paved the way for standard industry practices.The GWCC was the FIRST commercial foodservice operator to separate food waste for compost collection in the ZWZ program.

In 2010 the GWCC solidified their sustainability commitment by hiring Tim for the new dedicated sustainability coordinator position.The Zero Waste in ACTION (ZWA) Blog article, GWCCA Walks their Talk, announces the new campus-wide position and lists Tim's impressive credentials. As a LEED Accredited Professional, Tim was well-versed in the steps necessary for the fourth largest convention center in the nation to pursue LEED certification. 

GWCC executives with LEED plaque
Kevin Duvall, Patrick Skaggs, Tim &
Mark Zimmerman
Note Tim's responsibilities extend to all facilities within the state-owned Georgia World Congress Center Authority including the GWCC, the Georgia Dome, Olympic Centennial Park and more recently the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center.

Beyond waste reduction,Tim's responsibilities encompass the spectrum of sustainability including energy, cleaning, material used in construction | repairs & maintenance, and water conservation to list a few areas. 

One of Tim's first projects was administering the $2.3 million grant for a major lighting retrofit and controls system upgrade through the State Retrofit Program. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the funds were secured through GA Environmental Finance Authority's State Energy Program.The IMPACT Blog article, GWCC Rolling in the Green, details the retrofits funded by the grant.

Tim & Charlie with the
LEED Silver Certificate
Committed to LEED certification success, the GWCC contracted with Sustainable InvestmentGroup (SIG) to advise Tim and his team through the certification process. SIG principal & co-founder Charlie Cichetti was instrumental in creating an achievable action path that lead to the October 28 GWCC LEED Silver certification announcement.

Under Tim's leadership and SIG guidance, the GWCC Sustainability Committee worked in unison on taking the many necessary steps to achieve the points required for certification. In the formal press release, GWCC general manager Mark Zimmerman commented: 
“Tim Trefzer and the GWCCA Sustainability Committee did an outstanding job securing this award. We are very proud to be LEED Silver certified, this is a monumental achievement for the GWCC and the convention industry as a whole.” 
GWCCA Sustainability Committee
Pictured at right are the GWCCA Sustainability Committee: Adam Straight (GA Dome Director of Facility Operations), Josh Robison (GWCC Director of Engineering), Patrick White (GWCC Director of Building Services), Tim, Shawn King (GWCCA Warehouse/Inventory Control Manager), Chris Chadwick (GWCC Event Services), Mercy Mbugua (GWCCA Director of Purchasing), and Alicia McNeese (GWCCA Communications).

From a waste minimization standpoint, the GWCCA has impressive FY 2014 stats: 275 tons of single-stream recyclables, 119 tons of organics for composting, over 58 tons of excess food donated to local organizations, and 27 tons of cardboard baled for sale, for a total of 602 tons of material diverted from landfills. GWCC foodservice operator Levy Restaurants is a strong partner and responsible for the food donations and organics collected for composting.

Other GWCC accomplishments include:
  • 34% less water used than if standard code restroom fixtures were installed.
  • Nearly 50% of employee commutes are reduced by walking, biking, carpooling, public transportation and teleworking.
  • Approximately 26% more energy efficient than an average building of similar size and characteristics.
  • 86% (by cost) of janitorial paper and cleaning products meet sustainability criteria, including recycled content materials and reduced harmful chemicals.
  • 73% (by cost) of office supply purchases were sustainably procured.
Tim with Atlanta sustainability
professionals: David Freedman,
Shelby Buso & Beth Bond
Though not easily measured, the following programs | actions are strong contributors to the GWCC's environmental stewardship:
  • Integrated pest control takes a proactive approach, thus reducing toxic pesticide use.
  • Installation of electric vehicle charging stations encourages alternative transportation options.
  • The International Plaza is a "green roof" capping the seven-story red parking deck and reduces the urban heat island effect and stormwater run-off.
Sustainability is a journey with many milestones yet no specific destination. With each milestone achieved industry leaders establish new benchmarks for others to achieve. The LEED Silver certification is a tremendous accomplishment for the GWCC and sets a new industry benchmark.

... and yet the Georgia World Congress Center sustainability journey continues with many significant milestones in the foreseeable future!

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