Having been endowed with a minimal sense of rhythm, my idea of a night on the town usually does not include lining up alongside a velvet rope outside the hottest club. Yet last winter, I found myself queued up on a blustery street in downtown Manhattan, awaiting access to an industry event being hosted by Greenhouse, Manhattan’s first sustainable nightclub. I have to admit I couldn’t wait to get inside—not to bust a move, but to take a gander at the LED lighting, recycled materials, and other green attributes.
It seems the hospitality industry often has struggled with integrating sustainability into its properties for a variety of reasons such as limited aesthetic options for high-end interiors and, more recently, added initial cost in a market deeply impacted by the economic recession. These no longer are excuses. Savvy architects, builders, designers, engineers, and owners increasingly are tapping into new technologies, ever-expanding material palettes, and the revenue stream of eco-minded travelers to craft top-notch destinations that are both enticing to guests and environmentally responsible. As for the argument that hospitality properties cannot afford any potential additional costs associated with going green in a cash-strapped economy, well, improving a building’s performance is just smart business. Who wouldn’t want their property to operate more efficiently, regardless of whether the economy was up or down?
This is exactly the question gaming and hospitality giant MGM Mirage takes to heart in examining its portfolio of properties around the globe. In this issue’s Perspective column, “Golden Ticket,” Cindy Ortega, senior vice president of energy and environmental services for MGM Mirage, explains how sustainability and efficiency are core values of the company, and talks about how these values influenced the development of CityCenter, an oasis of sustainability that opened in December in Las Vegas, a town more often known for excess than conservation. Regarded as the single largest privately funded construction project in North America when it started several years ago, this multi-property, 67-acre project was designed and constructed by a cast of thousands and now is rolling in gold as it already has garnered six separate LEED Gold certifications for various individual structures.
A few months after CityCenter debuted, attention flew north as Vancouver, British Columbia, welcomed thousands of athletes and spectators to another stage of entertainment—the 2010 Winter Olympics. During the two weeks of competition, the athletic accomplishments on display weren’t the only attraction—the facilities themselves also drew their fair share of accolades. Before the games even began, the Richmond Olympic Oval earned LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. What’s more, Vancouver’s organizing committee and the participating designers and architects built facilities that not only addressed efficiency on a day-to-day basis, but also addressed long-term efficiency in the form of adaptive reuse and post-Olympics planning.
I find the Olympic Games to be an interesting planning conundrum. Host cities inevitably spend billions of dollars building a range of facilities for what amounts to a few weeks of concentrated use. What becomes of these structures after the games? In 2008, the Beijing National Stadium—aka the Bird’s Nest, by Herzog & de Meuron—drew rave reviews during the Summer Olympic Games, but within a year there were rumors of it falling into disrepair, having had significant trouble attracting other events. There now are rumors of it being turned into a shopping and entertainment complex.
Perhaps with Beijing and other past Olympic hosts in mind, many of Vancouver’s facilities were crafted with future plans incorporated in the initial designs. First, they started with what they already had: Rather than building its own, new equivalent of the Bird’s Nest, Vancouver rehabilitated BC Place Stadium, a 25-year-old structure. As for new facilities, the Olympic and Paraolympic Village in Vancouver was not only a project developed on a former industrial site that targeted LEED Gold certification, it also will be converted into affordable housing when the games are done near the end of March. And the Richmond Oval will be transformed into a multi-sport fitness center that includes a center for elite athletes, two ice rinks, an indoor track, and a court section featuring hardwood and rubber surfacing.
While we’re on the subject of competition, design excellence, and environmental performance, I’d like to mention that Eco-Structure’s third annual Evergreen Awards is now accepting entries. This year’s competition offers awards in four categories:
• Ecommercial: Environmentally responsible, high-performing commercial, industrial, and institutional projects;
• Greenhouse: Environmentally responsible, high-performing residential projects;
• On the Boards: A new category recognizing unbuilt work that addresses sustainability and environmental performance; and
• Perspective: Recognizing thought leaders or industry professionals moving the green building movement forward.
This year’s deadline for entry is July 1. For more information, visit eco-structure.com/evergreen.