Upon its completion in 2003, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLCC) received LEED-NC Gold certification, was the world’s largest green building (at 1.5 million sq-ft), and was the first LEED certified convention center. Since its opening in 2004, the DLCC has generated more than $673 million in direct local spending1 to Pittsburgh businesses, much of which has resulted from events attracted by the DLCC’s sustainability focus.
To capitalize on the support of the Convention Center’s operations, evolveEA and its consultant team was hired by the Heinz Endowments and Sports and Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to perform a post-occupancy analysis of the DLCC’s green features, performance, marketing pursuits, and operations, past, present, and future. Our study included quantitative and qualitative assessments of the following systems: energy, natural ventilation, water, site, transportation, waste, purchasing, and occupant comfort. Commissioning, internal greening efforts, and existing data collection were also examined. Simultaneously, the study was meant to aid the facility’s pursuit of LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance certification.
The value of this comprehensive study is in its evaluation of how marketing and overall sustainability performance are interrelated. Specific areas of value include:
- The Business Case for Sustainability: The evolveEA team built a strong business case that clearly defined the value of its sustainability initiatives, and galvanized organizational support for future investments. The team showed that from 2006 to 2010, marketing of the facility’s green features brought $144 million in spending to Downtown Pittsburgh, and $12.5 million in revenue directly to the Convention Center.
- LEED for Exiting Buildings Certification: The evolveEA team guided the LEED EB pursuit, and the study culminated in the facility becoming the first LEED EB Platinum Convention Center in the world.
- Strategic Marketing Development: Bolstered by the strength of the business case, and informed by careful review of visitor perception and industry best practices, the evolveEA team developed a strategic plan for leveraging the convention center’s efforts into increased business and improved environmental performance by using its sustainability communications program, or greefirst (g1), as a fulcrum for transformative regional change. By partnering with its local service providers or value chain, the facility’s g1 program can be used to brand the entire city as a green event destination, while greening the practices of the hotels and restaurants that its guests frequent.
- Internal and External Benchmarking: The evolveEA team systematically built the largest known and most in-depth benchmarking cohort of convention centers in the world. By gathering and sharing sustainability performance and best practices, the team has illustrated areas of strength and opportunities for improvement at the DLCC, while enabling industry-wide transformation.
- Energy Conservation: With the help of CJL Engineering, the evolveEA team identified energy saving measures that are expected to result in over $400,000 in annual energy savings. Additionally, the team has quantified a savings over a traditional building of over 20,000,000 kWh since 2005. This is equivalent to a savings of over 15,000 tons of CO2 emissions, which is roughly equal to the amount of carbon sequestered by an area of forest the size of Schenley Park.
- Waste Reduction Strategies: The evolveEA team analyzed the extremely progressive waste management program at the DLCC that recycles and composts upwards of 50% of its wastestream. The team identified opportunities to save $40,000 – $65,000 annually while maintaining and potentially increasing waste diversion.
- Indoor Environmental Testing: With the help of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics, the evolveEA team performed a thorough analysis of the quality of the DLCC’s indoor environment, and how it affects the facility’s visitors. The study found extremely high satisfaction rates (over 90%). This is an important selling point for the DLCC because the happier attendees are in their spaces, the longer they tend to stay, which means potentially higher traffic and sales for vendors.
- Transportation: The evolveEA team surveyed employees, attendees and vendors to understand their transportation habits, and identify opportunities for improvement. It found that visitors and employees find public transportation options to be adequate around the DLCC, although they felt communications surrounding these options could be improved. The team identified strategic interventions for improving public transit communication and signage.
- Sustainable Purchasing: The evolveEA team thoroughly reviewed the DLCC’s purchasing practices, and provided recommendation for improving the already high-performing facility’s practices. The team looked at ongoing consumables, durable goods, facilities and alterations, and food purchases.
This type of study is not common, and in addition to being a marketing opportunity in and of itself, it positions the DLCC for even greater operational success, cost savings, and future business. It also places the DLCC in a unique position to use the knowledge it has gained through this process for the greater good of the convention industry, and the communities in which the industry operates. This is NOT just a case study of a single-building, but can serve as a demonstration for other projects about how to systematically approach similar evaluations of high performance buildings, and gain multiple types of organizational value.
1. Sports and Exhibition Authority, Report to the Board FY 2009. David L. Lawrence Convention Center. 15 May 2010.