VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.—The Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) announced that the Virginia Beach Convention Center is the first convention center in the country to achieve LEED Gold certification for Existing Buildings. This achievement also signifies the facility as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s largest building (over 515,000 square feet) to achieve LEED Gold certification for Existing Buildings.
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings, which was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). There are several types of certifications but two primary ones for commercial facilities—New Construction (NC) and Existing Buildings (EB). Since this facility was opened in 2007, the Convention Center’s application was under the Existing Building category. The LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) Rating System helps building owners and operators of existing buildings measure operations, improvements and maintenance on a consistent scale, with the goal of maximizing operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts.
“The Virginia Beach Convention Center staff has set a great example for other buildings within the industry and the resort area by working as a team to efficiently perform and operate to LEED standards,” said James B. Ricketts, CVB director. “We pride ourselves on being innovative and forward-thinking, and by protecting our environment, we can look ahead to a sustainable and clean future.”
Proof of Commitment to Environment
“We are tremendously proud of this achievement,” said Courtney Dyer, Convention Center general manager. “This certification is a clear sign of our commitment to the environment and our staff worked hard as a team to get us there. By conserving energy and reducing our costs, we are better able to serve our community and meeting planners.”
“Our commitment to the environment is not only a preferred amenity, but a requirement for some meeting planners looking to book their events,” added Al Hutchinson, vice president of Convention Sales and Marketing for the CVB. “They consider LEED to be the premier third-party ‘Seal of Approval’ for meeting facilities in regard to environmental criteria.”
The convention center earned LEED points for energy conservation, sustainable purchases and innovation credits. The building received extra innovation points for developing ergonomics training for staff, an environmental communication program, which includes a compelling environmental awareness presentation on the 360-foot video wall, and an energy management outreach project. Sustainability initiatives include several core programs such as recycling, water efficiency, energy efficiency and food and beverage that enable it to operate as efficiently as possible while reducing its impact on the environment.
The facility was built on the location of the original Pavilion Convention Center, thereby reducing the cost of infrastructure improvements. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, LLP (SOM), the building’s architects, in conjunction with their local partner, Norfolk, Va.-based Clark Nexsen, had the foresight to recycle materials from the former facility including steel, copper, aluminum, concrete and cinder blocks and reuse materials like asphalt in construction of the new facility.
“We shared a commitment to excellence in all matters from design to operations,” said Leigh Breslau, design partner, SOM. “We would be gratified if this designation encourages the design community to continue working toward a better environment.”
From MBA to LEED-AP
The convention center’s business manager, Lori Herrick, earned the LEED Accredited Professional (LEED-AP) designation, which enabled her to facilitate the rating of the facility with the various LEED systems. The LEED-AP designation for Herrick is unique as most LEED-APs have engineering and architecture backgrounds while Herrick has a Masters in Business Administration.
Typically, commercial facilities hire consultants to apply for the certification. However, under Herrick’s leadership, 77 percent of the work was completed by city staff including the Departments of Public Works and Planning. As the LEED program is predicated on third-party verification, the convention center worked with consultants on an as-needed basis for documentation of technical areas.
The convention center’s LEED certification is in addition to several sustainability initiatives and programs the CVB and its hospitality partners have embraced as part of the Commonwealth’s Virginia Green campaign to promote environmentally-friendly practices in all aspects of the Virginia tourism and hospitality industry. Virginia Beach now has more than 100 Virginia Green certified hospitality businesses and is the Commonwealth’s first “Virginia Green Destination.” Currently, the convention center is competing against 14 commercial buildings in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) national competition to save energy and fight climate change. For more contest information, visit www.energystar.gov/BuildingContest.
For a complete list of the convention center’s green initiatives, visit www.vbconventioncenter.com/green.