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Steel City’s convention center earns “green cred” while Windy City welcomes 2013 Sustainable Meetings Conference

In part paraphrased from an article by Mark Belko in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; first published May 11, 2012.

Pittsburgh’s green convention center just got a little greener. The David L. Lawrence Convention Center has become the first such facility in the world to earn platinum certification for operations and maintenance under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

The announcement was in conjunction with the christening of the center’s green roof, located on the third floor south terrace. The 20,000-square-foot space features flowers, plants and grasses, and is designed to retain 80 percent of rainfall from storms and reduce the roof temperature by 50 degrees even on the warmest days.

Steel City – South terrace green roof


The LEED certification for existing buildings measures a host of areas, including building operations, cleaning and maintenance, recycling programs, landscaping and other exterior maintenance, and systems upgrades. The Pittsburgh convention center uses 29 percent less energy than comparable entertainment venues, while keeping 56 percent of the waste generated by events out of landfills through recycling and other initiatives. Furthermore, less than one third of the building’s water comes from municipal taps. The center uses an on-site wastewater-treatment plant to recycle water, and also draws from an underground water source to meet its needs.


Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said the achievement not only gives the convention center bragging rights, but also helps to bring in another kind of green. Since 2006, groups seeking green convention centers and green communities have spent $176 million in the region, he said. “This isn’t just recognition. These are real dollars being spent in our hotels, in our restaurants and, of course, here at the convention center,” he said. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald added that last year, $32 million of the $112 million in tourism generated by the convention center was due to its green features or reputation. “People make convention decisions based on green,” he said.


And yet… {as read in an article on Exhibitor Online, ENN (Exhibitor News Network) Section; first published May 17, 2012} Chicago welcomes the 2013 Sustainable Meetings Conference.  There’s a bit of irony for you. On the one hand, it’s understandable due to Chicago’s efforts over the years, such as citywide recycling, bicycle lanes in traffic, rooftop gardens on city buildings, plantings on parkways. (I mean, ENN does refer to Chicago as “one of North America’s most sustainable destinations.”) Yet on the other hand, Chicago has no specific venue that stands out as “green” or “sustainable.” (Visit the web site of The Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) for more.)

So, I guess in this case, the decision was not necessarily made for green reasons. These are real dollars being lost by Pittsburgh hotels, restaurants and the convention center that are instead being fed into Chicago’s economy. So, if the city is “sustainable,” then it’s okay that the venue is not? I’m just not clear on what message we’re supposed to glean from this. What is the real priority here? If you were the organizer of the Sustainable Meetings Conference, would you choose the most eco-friendly venue or city? It seems that an organization like GMIC would have clear guidelines for this sort of thing.


Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.


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