Recycling and sustainability efforts of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, host of The Greenbuild Conference and Expo from Oct. 22-24, 2014, resulted in a waste diversion rate of 78 percent for the event.
This exceeded the 65 percent goal set forth by U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) by 13 percent. A diversion rate is the measure of how much waste material is diverted from disposal to recycling.
Owned and operated by Hanley Wood and presented by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Greenbuild is the largest conference and expo dedicated to green building design and construction. USGBC, the sponsor of Greenbuild, is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.
When the group committed to hold their meeting in New Orleans over four years ago, Convention Center staff committed to meeting Greenbuild’s waste diversion goal and sustainability requirements, including a composting and a full recycling program. Since 2010, the Center been composting waste from the kitchen and food service areas on a regular basis, and local environmental service partner NOLA Green Roots picks up and weighs the waste weekly.
The composting efforts were taken to the next level for the Greenbuild meeting: a 30-yard open top container was placed in each of the four loading bays of the Center to collect of the compostable waste from the front of the house, such as cellulose-based paper towels from the 34 restrooms.
NOLA Green Roots, estimated more than 9,000 pounds of organic material was composted (9,160 lbs). Another 2,827 pounds of food was donated to Second Harvest Food Bank. More than 20,940 lbs pounds of waste (out of 86,788 lbs) from the event were diverted from a landfill. Currently, the Convention Center diverts 15 percent of its waste to compost and recycling. For this event, the Convention Center exceeded its goal of 65 percent by 13 percent, for a total of 78 percent of waste diverted to compost and recycling. This percentage represents more than 63,000 pounds of waste that was recycled in some way: aluminum, plastic and paper (19,500 pounds); cardboard (11,800 pounds); construction and demolition debris (10,460 pounds); plastic films (3,560 pounds); glass (3,854 pounds); and pallets (1,860 pounds).
The compost and recycling efforts are just the latest in a full scale program of sustainability improvements at the Convention Center. Over the past four years, the Convention Center has taken steps toward significant energy-saving measures:
- 6,000 25-watt incandescent outdoor lights replaced with full-watt LED lamps that last 25 times longer than an incandescent lamp, reducing the man-power needed to physically replace them when they expire
- Iridescent interior building lighting replaced with induction lighting, which is 85 percent more effecting.
- 3/4 mile of iridescent lighting on loading dock replaced with induction lighting
- Implemented computerized energy management system for lighting, heating and air conditioning.
- Replaced 26-year old chillers with new, energy efficient models.
The combined energy-saving measures have reduced the Convention Center’s monthly electric bill from $600,000 to $300,000, representing a cost savings of $3.6 million per year. Future energy-saving plans include LED lighting for exhibit halls and public spaces, and a “meeting room of the future” that will be energy efficient.
Additionally, the Convention Center intends to replace 3/4 of a mile of glass panels in the front of the building with high-efficiency art glass, and install solar panels on the roof of the building, which measures 40 acres. It is estimated that the solar panels on the roof of the building would generate two to three megawatts of energy.
New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center also contributed to Greenbuild’s sustainability efforts by helping them set up the first “net zero” exhibit space. The building’s balcony was utilized as the location for solar generated panels that powered an on-site microgrid, generating power to the exhibit booths.
Net Zero Zone showcased how booths in the exhibit hall can unplug from the utility grid and operate totally on power generated by solar panels. If any of the power sources are interrupted, the remaining sources pick up the slack, exemplifying Greenbuild’s key theme of resiliency.
More than 23,000 attendees and 600 exhibitors attended the 2014 Greenbuild Conference and Expo at the Convention Center.