Despite planners' lackluster attitude toward sustainability (in a recent M&C poll, 53 percent of respondents said they only provide means for attendees to recycle paper, cans and bottles on-site if the facility already has this in place), many convention centers are doing their part to save the world by implementing extensive green practices.
One trend: Grasses and other greenery are being planted on top of the expansive buildings, turning hot, black-tar ugliness into homes for birds, bees, bugs and vegetables. Beyond creating a lovely green space, a green roof also can absorb heat and help reduce the amount of energy needed to moderate temperatures in a convention center, as well as absorb rainwater and reduce storm runoff.
At the Vancouver Convention Centre in British Columbia, left, which is a LEED Platinum-certified facility, the greenery covers about six acres. There are 400,000 different species of plants up there, and four beehives are active, pollinating the plants and providing honey for the kitchen. A little-known fact: It takes a crew of six landscapers a week to mow the roof.
Architects of the green roof atop the young Music City Center in Nashville, which opened in 2013 and is certified LEED Gold, designed the space to resemble the state's rolling hills. Growing in the four-acre space are 14 species of sedum vegetation, mostly succulent plants that can live in harsh conditions like intense heat. Beehives have just been added, and the first batch of fresh honey is eagerly awaited.
When the seven-acre green roof, left, was installed as part of extensive renovations at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City, energy costs were expected to fall by 26 percent because of the insulating effects of the dirt and the mosses and ferns that have been planted there. (The installation of new HVAC systems help, too.) A number of bird species are enjoying the changes, now calling the convention center home. The Javits Center just last week announced it has earned Silver LEED certification.
In Pittsburgh, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center has two LEED certifications: Gold for new construction and Platinum for existing building. The 20,000-square-foot South Terrace green roof was installed in 2011 and features a path for visitors to stroll among the 7,000 perennials, grasses and sedum planted there.
Detroit's Cobo Center, left, has a 10,000-square-foot green roof that can be seen from several vantage points. The facility's catering group also has container herb gardens for use in seasonal recipes. A roof garden is being considered for a future capital-improvement project, although there is no timeline.
While not as extensive as some of the other entries, the Anahaim (Calif.) Convention Center's green roof serves the double purpose of energy conservation and kitchen supplier. The ACC's 2,000 square-foot garden on top of the arena's box office has an array of adaptive plants and herbs.
Keep up the good green work, convention centers!