NEW ORLEANS—The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (NOENMCC) has achieved its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, a major milestone in its ongoing commitment to sustainability. A building rating system that provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, green buildings, LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.
This official certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) makes the NOENMCC the largest LEED-certified project in Louisiana, the largest convention center project in the U.S. certified under LEED v4.1 Operations and Maintenance and the first convention center in the world to be awarded initial certification under LEED v4.1 O+M. The latest version of LEED certification, v4.1 raises the bar on building standards for energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality and waste reduction.
“Earning LEED certification shows that our Convention Center is not just a major economic driver for the region but also a responsible environmental leader in the state,” said Michael J. Sawaya, Convention Center President. “Being recognized as a LEED Gold certified facility under the most current qualifying standards is confirmation that the many energy-saving investments, building upgrades, and green initiatives we have implemented are helping to reduce our carbon footprint while also making the facility better for our guests, employees, and neighbors. With our steadfast commitment to sustainable practices, we are proving every day that our convention center in New Orleans is Built to Host.”
Transformation Happens One Project at a Time
“Transforming our buildings and spaces happens one project at a time. The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center understands the value of LEED and has shown extraordinary leadership in reshaping the market,” said Peter Templeton, President and CEO of USGBC. “The success of LEED is due to the partnership and support of those committed to advancing green building and sustainability. Each new LEED certification brings us one step closer to revolutionizing the spaces where we live, learn, work and play.”
Earlier this year, the NOENMCC completed a $20.6 million project to reduce energy-related expenses and improve the overall visitor experience. In addition to an overhaul of the facility’s lighting and air conditioning systems, the upgrades included the installation of 87 water bottle filling stations and low-flow fixtures in 37 sets of restrooms. The NOENMCC also expanded recycling to include the more than one million square feet of exhibit space and planted 200 trees in its new 7.5-acre pedestrian park that features rain gardens to help manage stormwater.
One especially impactful part of the certification process was a waste audit exercise with a special “trash team”—composed of leadership and staff—sorting through event garbage. The Convention Center’s food and beverage partner Sodexo has also taken a leading role in composting waste, utilizing compostable serving ware, and coordinating food donations. In addition, LEED v4.1 is a certification based on data, measurable reductions in energy use, water use and waste. For an initial certification of an existing building, achieving LEED v4.1 Gold is a major accomplishment.
“As you begin to walk the journey of LEED Certification, there are many factors that you must quickly identify and leverage to the overall success of the mission,” said Adam J. Straight, NOENMCC’s Vice President of Operations. “Buy-in from across the board, support from leadership and commitment to and from all stakeholders, are just a few examples of those resources. From day one, there has been no doubt or drift from those principles, and today is a clear example and result of that dedication. I am so very proud of everyone involved to achieve such an honor and to those who continue to support our initiatives toward our community, our region, and our state.”
More Capital Improvement Projects Planned
The Convention Center’s certification process was spearheaded by Linda Baynham, Director of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility. As the facility continues to implement its $557 million capital improvement program, she will continue to pursue sustainability initiatives. Some of the Convention Center’s current and upcoming capital improvement projects include installing a more energy-efficient roof, electric vehicle charging stations and new LED lighting in the meeting rooms and lobbies.
“Informa Markets is one of the largest producers of business-to-business events in the world, including Waste Expo which regularly visits New Orleans, and our company has taken the lead toward our industry becoming zero waste and net zero carbon,” said Kevin Thornton, Senior Vice President of Informa Markets. “The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s Gold LEED certification is exactly what event organizers are looking for when evaluating destinations to conduct events.”
The announcement was celebrated with a plaque unveiling and reception at the Convention Center on October 26. For more information on the Convention Center and its sustainability initiatives, visit https://mccno.com/sustainability/.