Venues of All Sorts Go Green

Facilities across the Midwest region make eco-friendly changes.

Meeting planners looking for an environmentally solid meetings alternative will find great green choices in the Midwest. From meetings venues, to hotels, to a brand-new airport, green is in throughout the Heartland.

In Madison, WI, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed and 250,000-sf Monona Terrace Convention Center (www.mononaterrace.com) is the first center to receive silver-level certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED - EB) rating system. By purchasing 1.1 million kilowatt-hours of wind energy, the facility eliminated more than 2.4 million tons of carbon-dioxide emissions and the need for 410 tons of coal. In 2009, nearly half of Monona Terrace's total energy usage will be wind-derived.

Monona Catering, the building's in-house caterer, which serves 450,000 people per year, uses many recyclables, including plastic cups at water stations, box lunch packaging, copy paper, and toner cartridges. Recognizing today's hard times, leftover food is donated to local pantries.

In St. Louis, the 260,000-sf Science Center has begun offering a green meetings program. Not only will delegates enjoy 700 hands-on exhibits—the Omnimax Theater, Boeing Space Station, and planetarium—the center will also donate 5 percent of its meetings proceeds to carbon-neutral programming through Carbonfund.org.

Even smaller facilities are catching green fever. The Discovery Center of Springfield, MO, is the first building in southwestern Missouri to attain LEED Gold certification. With an auditorium seating up to 200, a pair of modern classrooms, an immersion cinema theater, and a full kitchen and tables for up to 75, the facility even offers videoconferencing services that can connect the Ozarks to the world—and cut carbon-emitting travel.

Chicago offers a wide range of green meetings venues–including the new McCormick Place West, the largest new-construction building in the country to receive LEED certification.

Chicago also leads the country with five Green Seal-certified hotels. Hotel Monaco Chicago, Hotel Burnham, Hotel Allegro Chicago, InterContinental Chicago, and the Talbott Hotel all recently received Green Seal certification, an environmental lodging standard with requirements in waste minimization, energy efficiency, water conservation, waste-water management, and green procurement.

Finally, Indianapolis has taken environmental friendliness to a whole other level, with the new $1.1 billion Colonel H. Weir Cook Terminal at Indianapolis International Airport. The 1.2-million-sf facility is the largest LEED-certified building in the Midwest. Energy is conserved by the design and construction materials of the terminal. The roof reflects energy, which can reduce cooling costs, while the daylight available throughout the building reduces the need for artificial light.

Taxi time for jets has been cut significantly, reducing the amount of fuel needed to reach gates and cutting emissions. The airport's taxiways are lined with channels to collect glycol used for de-icing aircraft; the material is recycled. The new airport also has incorporated sustainability in its design, construction, and furnishings by reusing parking lots and runways, demolition materials, and glass, paint, and flooring.

Ground-transportation centers for local transit systems have been added, and the airport has even gone back to nature. Red maples, redbuds, switchgrass, honeylocust, hemlock, and tulip trees are among the native Midwestern species planted throughout to cut pesticide use, erosion, and maintenance costs, helping keep the airport green in more ways than one.

Originally published March 23, 2009