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I have the fever. It is spring, and I find myself a school girl again, gazing longingly from my window at budding trees and greening grass, wishing I could take off my shoes and respond to Mother Nature’s invitation to run riot through the countryside. In my verdant haze, I instead set myself the task of finding the greenest meeting venue in North America, one that our Green Mamma would be proud of. I imagined a structure, not intended as a monument to man’s supremacy over the natural world, but as a testament to his unity with it.


Such a place exists. The Vancouver Convention Centre on the waterfront in Vancouver, British Columbia, offers conventioneers the most comprehensively sustainable venue on the map. A recent remodel and expansion tripled the facility’s capacity to 466,500 feet of total exhibit, ballroom, meeting and theatre space. The Centre was first in the world to receive a LEED Platinum Certification and has won numerous awards for its unparalleled facilities and commitment to earth-friendly events.

Designers and planners sought not only to integrate the facility with its natural environment, but to devise long-term maintenance and business strategies that enhance the Centre’s symbiosis with its surroundings and attract a regular stream of low and no-carbon events.

In 2007, the Centre hosted the Canadian Waste and Recycling Expo, the first ever audited, zero-waste event. The expo was intended to establish a standard for zero-carbon events around the world. Since then, the facility has committed itself to attracting sustainable meetings and conventions. Its Sustainable Event Guidelines detail suggestions for coordinating environmentally friendly events, many of which may be applied at any facility. This is a great resource for anyone who is planning a green event and can be found at http://www.vancouverconventioncentre.com/thefacilities/environment/.

The West Building, completed in 2009, boasts the largest, non-industrial living roof in North America. It hosts over 400,000 indigenous plant species. To help maintain all of that plant life, the roof also houses four bee colonies containing approximately 60,000 bees. Those busy bees do double-duty by supplying honey to the public plaza restaurant. Roof irrigation is provided in part by wastewater and in part through a desalinization system that feeds water from the harbor.

With ceiling to floor windows, the West Building not only offers spectacular views of the mountains and harbor, but makes best use of natural light to reduce the need for power. Further, engineers took advantage of the constant temperature of the deep harbor to design a seawater heating and cooling system. The facility also has its own wastewater treatment system.

Engineers cleaned up and restored a portion of contaminated, industrial waterfront when they designed the Centre’s expansion. The building is set on a pier foundation housing a tidal ecosystem designed to flush daily in order to feed the artificial reef structure and fish habitat that surrounds the facility’s perimeter. A kelp forest grows along the reef, mimicking the natural shoreline.

In addition to its innovative building design and efficient utility systems, the Centre runs sustainable food operations. Its kitchens utilize local and fresh foods, feature organic, free-range options, and serve all condiments in bulk. They avoid purchasing pre-packaged items and use only real china, flatware and cloth napkins. The facility is able to recycle nearly half of its generated waste volume as a result of choices like these. The Centre also donates leftover food to local charities.

The Vancouver Convention Centre is setting a superlative standard for sustainability in our industry. Our collective demand for facilities like this will ensure that more are built in communities around the globe.

Green tip for April

In keeping with the Vancouver Convention Centre’s criteria for zero-waste events, give these simple ideas a try:

  • Load in all materials in reusable containers.
  • Offer electronic show collateral.
  • Leave the event with everything you brought in.

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