By Jennifer N. Dienst, Contributing Editor
Thinking green (and gold) by setting the pace for sustainable venues with LEED Gold certification
At the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, sustainability practices have redefined the way the awardwinning facility operates and serves guests every day. In fact, the facility has earned LEED Gold certification for Existing Buildings as a result of its renewed emphasis on thinking green.
“We are positioning ourselves as a ‘LEEDer’ among convention centers, with a truly state-of-the-art facility in a fantastic destination,” said Nicki E. Grossman, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB).
A relatively early adopter of green practices, the center's first step toward reducing its carbon footprint began with the creation of a multifaceted recycling program in 1992. Fastforward to 2008, when the center officially formed a “Green Team” and began working with Sustainable Options LLC, Green Building Consultants to register the center with the U.S. Green Building Council and begin the LEED-certification process. The exciting news came in August 2012, just after the close of the Summer Olympic Games, when the center earned a gold medal of its own: LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance Gold certification. The venue is the first convention center in Florida to earn LEED certification on any level, and one of only three in the United States to achieve LEED Gold certification for Existing Buildings.
Throughout the past two years, the center has made leaps and bounds in implementing new eco-friendly enhancements. Exterior improvements include new landscaping of indigenous plants and trees as well as upgrades of the building's front walkways, which are now covered in colorful motifs. The revamped landscape not only is visually appealing, but also substantially reduces irrigation requirements. New sprinklers that use 65 percent less water than the previous system now irrigate the center's plants, trees, and turf grass, which is much less water-dependent. As a result, the convention center's annual water usage has dropped from 10 million gallons to less than 5 million gallons just from the use of this new irrigation system.
Even the center's food-and-beverage team has joined the movement by implementing sustainable alternatives. Nicknamed “SAVOR,” the team contributed to the center's LEED Gold certification by procuring fresh and local ingredients whenever possible and installing a state-of-the-art commercial decomposition machine, dubbed “the Digester,” which turns all organic kitchen waste into water. The water is recycled at a nearby water-treatment plant and returned as potable water.
In addition to the convention center's success in setting the pace for sustainably focused convention centers everywhere, the GFLCVB has added new programs and services that make planning a meeting in Fort Lauderdale even easier. The GFLCVB's “SUNsational Service” team has partnered with six upscale area hotels to form the Lauderdale Convention Collection, which includes the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, the Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel, the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel, and Embassy Suites Fort Lauderdale — 17th Street. All of the collection's 2,700 total hotel rooms are within a mile and a half of the convention center and overlook either the beach or the Intracoastal Waterway. All of the properties are also close to Fort Lauderdale's most popular venues, restaurants, nightlife, and cultural and sports attractions.
The Lauderdale Convention Collection also simplifies the planning process for meeting professionals by offering a convenient, one-stop planning source. The GFLCVB team assists planners with their meeting or event from start to finish, including site visits, RFPs, accommodations, transportation, marketing, attendance building, and more. Planners are also assigned one point of contact to make the planning process as seamless as possible. By booking the Lauderdale Convention Collection on select dates, groups can receive perks and bonuses, including commemorative gifts, advance marketing assistance at the previous year's event, complimentary receptions and rental space at the convention center, as well as discounts on food-and-beverage, electricity, security, telecommunications, and audiovisual services.
AT A GLANCE
- The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center offers 600,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.
- In addition to 33,000 hotel rooms in the area, Fort Lauderdale offers the Lauderdale Convention Collection — six upscale meeting hotels with a total of 2,700 rooms in close proximity to the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center.
- The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, Design Center of the Americas, Las Olas Boulevard, designer outlets at Sawgrass Mills, 23 miles of Blue Wave beaches, 40-plus golf courses, yacht charters, Vegasstyle casinos, Water Taxi, waterfront group dining, and more
For more information: Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau — 954.765.4466 or 800.356.1662; sunny.org/meetings