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Convention Center Gets Green Report Card

One of Pittsburgh's premier "green" buildings has been tested as to its true sustainability, and the preliminary results are encouraging.

The David Lawrence Convention Center received nods of approval from a team of investigators who wanted to see if it has retained its industry-leading sustainability over eight years of operation.

About one hundred architects, engineers, and other green designers gathered at the convention center on Thursday for an updated cross-section of a structure that was hailed as the world's largest green building when it opened in 2003.

Since then, the green building movement has boomed across the nation and the world, but it appears as though the David Lawrence Convention Center is holding its own.

The final sustainability report has yet to be released, but the preview touted the center as a "leader in water use, waste source reduction, and overall occupant satisfaction," adding that more than a third of the facility's revenue since 2006 has come from "green-seeking events."

Christine Mondor is the Principal of "evolve environment::architecture," the leader of the two-year study from the Green Building Alliance. Mondor said her research represents not only a snapshot of the convention center's performance, but also a source of ideas to keep it competitive with other facilities across the country.

"A convention center needs to bring people in. Does what they're doing leverage them more business? Right now, it is leveraging them more business, but they have a chance to really take the leadership and really push it far and be the premier green facility in the nation, which we were when this building was built," said Mondor. "Now, we can continue that."

Staying on Top of New Technology

Mondor said that her team recommended eight sustainability improvements to the Sports and Exhibition Authority, which owns the center. Of those eight suggestions, the SEA has already started working on six, said Mondor. She said that those improvements are necessary for the David Lawrence Convention Center to remain competitive with its rivals in other cities.

Mark Leahy, General Manager of the convention center, said that the study of the $375 million structure has provided him with useful information that he's already starting to use.

"We talked about the technology of light bulbs alone — you can still get the same light output with less wattage being used," said Leahy. "They've analyzed that for us. That's tremendous. I don't have the staff that's dedicated to doing that type of research and development."

A Learning Experience

The green design professionals at Thursday's preview will now be able to emulate the convention center's green practices with confidence, said Mondor.

"If the convention center, who can buy a lot of this product, is ready to invest in that technology, then the smaller folks, who might not be able to be the bleeding edge, who need to wait and see, can say, 'Hey, it works and it's fantastic,'" said Mondor.

Remaining a Green Leader

Since its 2003 inception, two of the convention center's green features have stood out: the swooping roof design that doubles as an air flow regulator, and the wall-to-wall windows that make it one of the brightest in the business.

But Mondor said other, more subtle features also help to make the center an icon of sustainability. She pointed to the convention center's "Green First" recycling campaign, and to the water treatment system that recycles blackwater back through the facility.

The study's full results will be released to the public on November 18 at the Green Building Alliance website.