Orange County Convention Center gets high 'green' rating
October 14, 2013|By Sara K. Clarke and David Damron, Orlando Sentinel
The Orange County Convention Center has received a prestigious energy-saving certification, making it the largest such exhibit hall to obtain a gold standard seal forgreen building design.
County officials announced Monday the center had been awarded the gold level of Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED certification, from The Green Building Certification Institute, an arm of the U.S. Green Building Council.
Officials said Orange's North-South Building is the largest convention center in the world to receive that rating.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs called the designation a "crucial investment in our county's future."
"It demonstrates unprecedented leadership and commitment in response to one of the most important challenges of our time: The protection and preservation of our vital natural resources," Jacobs said.
The center already is home to the largest rooftop photovoltaic system in the Southeast, part of an $8.8 million solar-power project that also includes a 3,000-square-foot Climate-Change Education Center. The 1-megawatt photovoltaic system produces the equivalent of the power used by 110 typical homes.
"The Orange County Convention Center is moving the hospitality industry forward through your commitment to environmental sustainability," Kimberly Lewis, senior vice president for community advancement, conferences and events at the U.S. Green Building Council, told community leaders gathered at the center Monday.
The convention center has also received certification from the International Organization for Standardization for its recycling efforts. It applies Xeriscape planting principles to reduce the need for irrigation, which is done with reclaimed water.
And it uses green cleaning products and works with event organizers to plan environmentally friendlyevents.
Sustainability has become a rapidly growing request in the meetings and convention industry, said Dina Belon, sustainability specialist at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.
Earlier this year, a list of standards was released to help meeting planners develop green meetings. Some planners now ask venues to measure their meeting's waste stream or their energy consumption, to serve locally-sourced food or to calculate and provide carbon offsets.
"I'd never heard that question a year ago," Belon said, noting that meetings venues "have to transform themselves."
In addition to meeting business demand, the center's deputy general manager Jan Addison said the center hopes to offset the impact of its visitors.
Nearly 60 percent of the center's waste was diverted from landfills this past year, and even food scraps are recycled as livestock feed.
"Even the cattle and chickens in our area are benefitting from events at the convention center," she quipped.