by Jonathan Vatner | March 01, 2004

Pittsburgh’s David Lawrence Convention Center

The movement to create “green” convention centers is catching on in cities such as Pittsburgh, Portland (Ore.), San Francisco and Seattle. In addition to helping the planet and garnering good PR, such facilities are conserving resources and saving their cities money. 
    For instance, Pittsburgh’s new David Lawrence Convention Center has a glass-roofed hall, which cuts lighting costs. Recycled water is used in toilets and for irrigation, reducing potable water usage.
    Seattle’s Washington State Convention & Trade Center last year saved almost $200,000, thanks to energy-efficient lighting, said Michael McQuade, director of sales and marketing.
    San Francisco Moscone Center’s recycling and donations program has cut hauling costs by $500,000 per year since it started in 1998. More recently, the center has begun shutting off lights and escalators during shows’ move-in and -out times to save on energy costs.
    Going green à la Pittsburgh’s glass-roofed hall gains other economic benefits. “Studies have shown that displaying merchandise in daylight increases sales by as much as 40 percent,” said Bob Imperata, executive vice president of the Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau.
    The upshot? “If a planner is able to save money and help the environment, it makes her organization look good,” said Amy Spatrisano, CMP, president of the newly formed U.S. Green Meetings Industry Council and chair of the new Green Meetings Task Force of the McLean, Va.-based Convention Industry Council.
    While eco-friendly touches are considered pluses for convention facilities, green status has yet to catch on as a rock-bottom criterion for site selection.
    “I cannot imagine a situation where it’s going to be a deal breaker between two convention centers,” said Greg Talley, president and COO of Talley Management Group Inc., an association and event management company based in Mt. Royal, N.J. “We’re looking at too many other things.”