Home Publisher's Point of View Five-Year Javits Center Renovation was for the Birds

Five-Year Javits Center Renovation was for the Birds

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Those attending this November’s HX: The Hotel Experience (November 8 to 10) and Boutique Design New York (November 8 to 9) will be doing so in a building—the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center—that has undergone some dramatic changes in recent years. High above the trade show floors, up on the roof of the complex that offers 840,000 square feet of meeting space, there is a 6.75-acre green roof.

“As the second largest of its kind in the country, the nearly seven-acre green roof is serving as a model for sustainability nationwide, reducing our energy consumption while becoming a living laboratory for various groups such as Drexel University, Cooper Union and the New York City Audubon,” says Rebecca Marshall, Energy and Sustainability Manager at the Javits Center. “This building was once known as the No. 1 bird killer in New York City, and as a result of a new glass façade and this green roof, we have become an urban sanctuary for wildlife—an amazing turnaround for any building. Because of the size and scope of our green roof, we are hoping what is learned can be extrapolated to other roofs around the city.”

CBS This Morning recently ran a segment on the green roof. Click here to see it. The reporter calls the Javits Center a “modern miracle on 34th Street.” Bird fatalities have declined by an estimated 90 percent and there are now more than 10 species of birds that call the green roof home. Heating and cooling costs are down 25 percent. That is due to not only the green roof but also upgrades to the Center’s HVAC system. The plants on the roof absorb runoff and reduce the heat island effect. There are beehives on the roof and students study weather patterns there. To assist birds in their travels, the Javits Center turns its lights off during bird migration season.

Additional Javits Center Initiatives

I interviewed Rebecca for an article for our Personnel Profile section. She is one of the now many sustainability experts employed full-time at convention centers throughout the United States and Canada. Rebecca has been at the Javits Center for two years now and told me about a number of other initiatives under way at the Center.

An energy dashboard supplied by an outside vendor is used to track water, electricity and gas consumption. “There are real-time meters where we can see actual consumption down to five minute intervals,” Marshall says. “From the dashboard, we can generate reports showing consumption throughout several years.”

The Javits Center has reduced water consumption by 2.9 million gallons—primarily due to the installation of low flow fixtures and sensors in all the newly renovated restrooms. Additional measures to reduce waste include reducing light levels during move-in and move-out periods, minimal HVAC usage, and the turning off of escalators when the show is not open. In partnership with its customers, Javits Center operators recycle, and even compost, when possible. After events, donations are made to charities.

The New York Convention Center Operation Corp., operator of the Javits Center, is pursuing LEED certification for the Center. The application for the certification is currently under review by the U.S. Green Building Council. “We should know our level of certification in a couple of months,” Marshall says.

The Javits Center, the only major convention center in the country that needs no operational subsidies, is positioning itself to be one of the premier “green” meeting spaces in North America. Given the competitive nature of the meetings business, it is most definitely a wise strategy.

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