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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Atlanta: the greenest convention, sports, and entertainment destination in the world

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). The announcement thrust 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.

GWCCA Executive Team
with the LEED Silver  plaque
Recertifying two years early, on November 28, 2017, the GWCC was awarded LEED Gold certification, the second highest level in the rating system. In the recertification, the GWCC was thirteen points higher than the 2014 application and five points higher than the minimum requirement. The majority of the additional points related to the energy-saving performance contract referenced below.

Improving our performance from LEED Silver to Gold reflects our commitment to having better buildings, being better neighbors, and hosting better events,” said Tim Trefzer, LEED Accredited Professional and the GWCCA’s Director of Sustainability. “It’s a testament to our leadership’s vision to anchor the greenest convention, sports, and entertainment destination in the world.” 

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.

As an industry leader in sustainability, the GWCCA 220-acre downtown campus boasts an impressive list of accomplishments:
  • GWCCA diverted more than 14 million pounds of material from landfills since 2010. 
  • GWCC reduced water consumption by 41% since 2009 through the installation of new irrigation, restroom fixtures, and chillers. 
  • GWCC is approximately 28% more energy efficient than similar buildings. 
  • GWCCA uses janitorial paper and cleaning products that meet sustainability criteria, including recycled content materials and|or reduced harmful chemicals. (86% of the products meet the criteria) 
    New equipment in the
    energy-saving performance contract
  • GWCC’s 1,900-solar panel canopy located in the marshaling yard produces enough energy to power 89 Georgia homes annually. 
  • GWCCA employees donated 1730 lbs. of clothing, recycled 152 lbs. of batteries and electronics, and donated nearly 500 meals worth of food to the Atlanta Community Food Bank during the 2016 holiday season.
  • GWCCA finished construction in April 2017 of a $28 million energy-saving performance contract that is expected to save at least 39% on utilities. The contract earned the majority of the additional thirteen LEED certification points in the 2017 recertification.
  • GWCCA-managed Savannah International Trade and Convention Center earned LEED Gold in July 2017, making it the first convention center in the State of Georgia to achieve Gold LEED status. 
Atlanta is home to one of the densest (if not the densest) district of LEED-certified event space in the world and is the greenest convention, sports, and entertainment destination in the world. 

The list of downtown Atlanta LEED-certified facilities is impressive: GWCC (world’s largest LEED-certified convention center), Mercedes-Benz Stadium (first professional sports stadium in the world to achieve LEED-Platinum certification), Philips Arena (world’s first National Basketball Association/National Hockey League arena to get LEED certified), as well as the College Football Hall of Fame (LEED Silver), the World of Coca-Cola (LEED Gold), and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (LEED Silver).

Atlanta was a driving force in sustainability rising to a key component for large event site selection. As host to the 2013 NCAA® Men’s Final Four®, the second most popular sporting event across the globe, Atlanta set a high standard for sporting event sustainability practices. One of the Atlanta Local Organizing Committee (ALOC) stated goals was to make the 2013 Final Four the "greenest games ever." Tim took the helm for achieving the lofty goal.

SUCCESS: the comprehensive ALOC plan culminated in impressive green footprints before, during and after the games. The ZWA Blog article, Final Four green footprints continue after the games, gives an overview of event sustainability stats; the May 2013 Final Four Sustainability Report is the official in-depth report.

Post-event, Tim and an EPA colleague drafted the Final Four Sustainability RFP sustainability section. Thus, new industry standards were established!

GWCCA Senior Director of Client Services Erik Waldman, validates the role LEED certification plays in event location decision making:
“The meeting planners of today are much more conscious of the effects that their events have on communities than in the past. LEED certifications allow venues to highlight their performance and even benchmark it against competitors. With these two factors alone, Atlanta is easily recognized as one of the most sustainability-friendly sites for events, led by the Georgia World Congress Center and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.”
Environmental and community stewardship are strong drivers within the GWCCA culture. Management understands sustainability is a journey without a specified destination; continued improvement in facility practices are always available. As the anchor to Atlanta's convention, entertainment, and sports downtown sports district, the GWCCA takes their role as a major economic driver seriously.

Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Atlanta Stephanie Stuckey, confirms the GWCCA's leadership role:
The Georgia World Congress Center achieving LEED Gold certification is more than simply the culmination of implementing sustainable practices. It represents a commitment by the GWCCA towards making Atlanta a more resilient place to live, work and play. Given the extraordinary importance of climate protection and the major impact of the building industry in that effort, GWCCA is leading our city by example.” 
In 2019, the GWCCA hosts GreenBuild, the USGBC annual conference attracting an estimated 20,000 attendees from a wide spectrum of the sustainability community. It is a perfect occasion to celebrate Atlanta's status as the greenest convention, sports, and entertainment destination in the world!

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