LEED O+M: Existing Buildings v2.0
Austin Convention Center Dept
Austin, TX 78701
LEED Gold 2011
The below stakeholder perspectives address the following LEED credits:
EAp1, EAc1, EAc2, MRc2, MRc4, MRc5, MRc6
Goals and motivations
What were the project sustainability goals?
One of our primary goals was to review, improve, and solidify our standard operating procedures. The LEED process forced us to take a microscope to our operations and create standard policies and plans that will be valuable for years to come. Second, we strove to decrease our carbon footprint, important to both the City of Austin and the Austin Convention Center. The ACC developed its own customized climate protection plan with a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020. Our goal was to reduce our carbon footprint significantly as we implemented our sustainability initiatives. Third, we wanted to reduce our utility consumption both from an environmental and financial viewpoint. With rising utility rates, we knew that without making a significant effort to reduce utility consumption, our costs would increase exponentially.
What were the most notable strategies used to earn LEED credits?
Large-scale implementation of LED fixtures:
Although this had a high first cost, lights installed throughout the convention center helped reduce energy use and mercury content in the facility, and will last for many years. The longevity of the fixtures reduced maintenance cost since the fixtures have a 50,000-hour life.
The MR credit category of LEED was an area for ACC to really shine, as they perform all of this work in house. On the waste side, major efforts were made to revamp the recycling process and increase the recycling percentage. At ACC, the Material Resources Waste Management Team (with aid from community service volunteers) sorts and properly disposes of all event waste. Given the nature of the convention center and the amount of visitors to the facility, ACC needed to take control of the sorting process. This in-house sorting significantly helps decrease the potential that recycling material is inadvertently sent to the landfill. The recycling rates increased through routine waste audits that looked at the staff's sorting process and policy development to solidify the efforts throughout the convention center departments.Recycling efforts address paper, cardboard, metal, batteries, light bulbs and ballasts, plastic, toners, glass, carpet, food scraps, disposable food, and beverage wares. A composting program was added and helpedincrease our recycling rate to 68%.
View of the recycling area where the convention center waste team sorts the trash. Photo by Maureen Roskoski.
On the purchasing side, ACC created a software interface that would allow them to track sustainable purchases and set an aggressive goal of 60% of all general purchases meeting the sustainable purchasing guidelines. We surpassed our goal and are at 97% of general purchases, 100% of indoor air quality-compliant products, and 100% of cleaning products meeting the sustainable purchasing guidelines. This amazing feat was accomplished through education of all who make purchases on what the sustainable purchasing guidelines were, and diligent tracking of all purchases.
Education & Outreach:
ACC achieved all of the LEED Innovation in Operations points by showing their unique practices in sustainability, particularly via public education. ACC has a commitment to sustainability that spans beyond its operations and focuses on the education of employees, clients, event attendees, and the community in general. ACC created a Green Exhibit Room that includes TV monitors that showcase sustainable initiatives at the convention center; educational programming, documentation, and posters with information on the convention center's recycling and composting program, the ENERGY STAR program, its engagement with USGBC, andthe Green Choice Program; exhibition shelves with sustainable food and beverage information provided by the catering contractor; documentation about ACC involvement in the testing of new solar inverter technologies for solar power; and a Carbon Calculator Kiosk managed by Austin Energy which is open to the public and event attendees who want to measure their personal carbon footprint.The activities under this program support staff education, professional development, environmental awareness and advocacy, public engagement, and non-profit partnership. It is through the infusion of sustainability concepts and through learning experiences that ACC will help foster environmental awareness. Education is the best way to ensure that our employees understand sustainability goals, efforts, and the need for sustainable operations and maintenance best practices.
Aside from LEED certification, what were key successes?
One success was substantial cost avoidance in electricity costs. All of the energy conservation measures (ECMs) implemented contributed to this. Retro-commissioning and the implementation of ECMs allowed ACC to operate at a level that is 26% more efficient than the peer comparison baseline. Although our energy reduction might not be as high as we would like, when you factor in the electricity rate increases that we were subject to, this resulted in approximately $450,000 in cost avoidance.
We have also reduced our carbon footprint. The Austin Climate Protection Plan is a city-wide initiative with a primary goal to make Austin a leading city in the reduction of carbon emissions. The Austin Convention Center has developed its own customized ACC Climate Protection Plan, with a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020, as part of this city-wide initiative. The ACC is one of the leading members through implementation of the plan and providing a municipal example of sustainable best practices. The plan establishes goals to reduce waste, adopt sustainable purchasing policies, educate employees, and save energy. The plan supports the creation of an employee Green Team which is in charge of organizing sustainable events and coordinating actions with other city departments. Our efforts through the certification process allowed us to decrease our carbon footprint 93% from our 2007 baseline.This has been accomplished through reductions in electricity, gas, fuel, and water consumption, purchasing of Renewable Energy Certificates, and switching of a portion of ACC's fleet to alternative fuel vehicles.
Last, our waste management and resulting waste diversion rates have been a huge success for us. The waste process was examined, and upgraded, and we are now routinely recycling 60 to 70% of our waste.
View of a typical recycling bin at the Austin Convention Center with the options for recycling, composting, and landfill. Photo by Wayne Malek
What key metrics best define the project's most significant savings and/or LEED-related successes?
We have reduced our energy consumption 8% compared to our historical three-year average, even with significant changes in weather. Although our energy reduction might not be as high as we would like, when you factor in the electricity rate increases that we were subject to, this resulted in approximately $450,000 in cost avoidance.
Second, we made great strides in our carbon footprint reduction during our LEED certification process. By the end of 2010, ACC had reduced its carbon footprint by 93% from the 2007 baseline.
Lastly, one of the areas that far exceeded our expectations was the improvement in the waste management program. When we started the LEED certification process in 2009, we were at a recycling rate of 38% and we wanted to improve that. We are now routinely recycling 60 to 70% of our waste. This is a great metric for our public facility because demonstrating to the public that we can recycle this much of the waste is a great education tool.
What is something that did not go well or as planned on the project, how did the team address it, and how will you approach future projects differently as a result?
As a unique facility, there were a few challenges we encountered and overcame as part of our LEED certification. Although we implemented many energy conservation measures and saw a 10% energy reduction in the first year, further reductions were very difficult to achieve. After decreasing energy consumption in 2010, energy use started to trend upward in 2011. A few complicating factors influenced this, including weather and the fact that the majority of our consumption is based on client request (events at the center) rather than an internal matter that we can more easily control. Energy reduction was very difficult to achieve.
This trend and the requirement to provide our own benchmarking drove us to perform additional analysis on our energy consumption and patterns. As a non-ratable building in the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Program, we had to find our own way of benchmarking our energy. A master account was set up in Portfolio Manager for convention centers across the country to share their data. This provided a place for us to compare our building to other similar buildings. Although it was not always easy to convince convention centers to share their energy data, using Portfolio Manager allowed us to benchmark and show we were operating at an energy efficiency level 26% better than our peer-comparison baseline.
An additional challenge was that our team found the project a little overwhelming for everyone in the beginning. The scope and scale of LEED certification can be a little intimidating at first. Indirectly, this can cause team members to hit stopping points due to lack of knowledge and/or resources. We overcame this by having regular meetings as a team with our LEED consultant, which gave everyone the opportunity to communicate difficulties. Meeting on a consistent basis enabled other members of the team to weigh in on issues and propose potential solutions to resolve the problems which were instrumental in keeping the project moving forward.
What was the value of applying LEED to this project?
With the achievement of LEED certification, the Austin Convention Center has not only become a leader in the industry, but also within the City of Austin. The building blocks created by LEED certification of the convention center will assist ACC in meeting the goals of the Austin Climate Protection Plan and the Austin Resource Recovery's Zero Waste Plan. In addition, this significant achievement provides a road map for other City departments to pursue LEED certification for their existing buildings. The policies and plans developed for the convention center can be used as templates for other City buildings and many city facilities can mirror the convention center's implementation of the LEED process in a way that most benefits their facility
LEED Plaque Ceremony, January 2012. Photo by Noe Lara.
ACC pioneered the way and has shown other facilities, particularly city facilities, that LEED certification is not only possible, but can vastly improve the way buildings are operated. It shows that any city facility can utilize and benefit from the LEED process. Without a LEED framework, many feasible items may well have been discarded and metrics would not have been included.
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