Florida Gets First LEED Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale

New Green Features at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center

• A revamped landscape design that reduces irrigation needs by using verdant plants and trees indigenous to South Florida and less water-dependent turf grass, all of which are irrigated by an efficient micro-drip system that uses an estimated 65 percent less water than the previous sprinkler system, contributing to an overall goal of reducing the convention center's water usage for irrigation from 10 million gallons annually to less than 5 million.

• A retrofit of the older, less energy-efficient lighting with a combination of new more energy-efficient fluorescents, LEDs, CFLs and induction lighting to reduce both heat and energy, resulting in a savings of 18 percent off the electric bill.

• A retrofit of all older plumbing fixtures with low-flow kits to reduce water consumption in restrooms, producing a savings in water consumption of more than 45 percent.

• The replacement of two 19-year-old water-cooled chillers with new, more energy-efficient water-cooled chillers; along with upgrades to the air-handling and ventilation system, including CO2 sensors for enhanced indoor air quality.

• An upgrade to the building’s energy management system, including temperature and lighting controls, to enhance the comfort of building occupants while maintaining control of energy using systems in the building to achieve high performance.

• Through staff training and working with clients, increased annual recycling from 8 percent of total waste stream to 58 percent in the past year, including an estimated 150 tons of brochures, wood pallets, cardboard, carpet and padding, clear sheet plastic, plastic table cloths, lamps and bulbs, shrink wrap, twine, landscaping debris and batteries, as well as plastic bottles, glass and cans.

• The installation of a state-of-the-art, commercial organic waste decomposition machine — known as "the digester" — that turns all organic kitchen waste into "gray water" that is similar to waste water from a sink, which is then recycled at the water treatment plant and returned as potable water.

• The purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for off-site renewable wind and hydro energy systems. The convention center's most recent green power purchase will help keep 20,722,187 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, which can be equated to planting 85,276 fully-grown trees.

• To improve indoor/outdoor air quality for building occupants, smoking is no longer permitted within 25 feet of any building opening. No-smoking signage has been placed throughout the convention center to alert visitors of this policy and specific designated smoking areas have been provided.

• A touch-screen kiosk has been installed in the building's main lobby, which allows patrons to view the convention center's "real-time" energy savings and learn about the improvements made over the past three years.

• SAVOR, the center's team of food and beverage professionals, follows sustainable practices in the kitchen, from energy-efficient food preparation, non-toxic cleaning, recycling, and water conservation to purchasing locally produced food and beverages whenever possible. Donations are made to local food banks when appropriate and all other organic waste is disposed of in the "digester," which means virtually "zero" organic waste is disposed of in landfills.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been awarded LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) — making it Florida's first LEED-certified convention center and one of only three convention centers in the nation to achieve LEED Gold certification for an existing building.

"This is truly a great day for Broward County as we bring home the gold and celebrate the successful transformation of our convention center into a model of sustainability," said Nicki Grossman, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We have reached an Olympic goal that no other Florida convention center has attained."

The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center began its pursuit of LEED certification in 2008, when it decided to convert the 600,000-square-foot facility into an energy-efficient and environmentally sound, carbon neutral building. The first step was engaging green building consultants to audit the facility's existing energy use and environmental practices.

In the three years following the initial audit, numerous eco-friendly enhancements were made to the convention center's daily operations, ranging from water and energy usage to recycling and food waste.

"Throughout the three-year process, our convention center team focused on becoming the most energy-efficient, least polluting and healthiest work space among convention centers, which makes us more attractive to meeting planners and groups who are looking for a truly green meeting facility," said Mark Gatley, regional general manager for SMG — which manages the facility — and the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. "We believe that preference for green convention facilities will continue to increase and our convention center is already ahead of the curve to capture that business."