Call it green, call it sustainability, but being environmentally savvy is not a trend. It's an important business practice that's here to stay. Leading the charge in New Orleans is the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (MCCNO), the sixth largest convention facility in the nation. Recently winning the Overall Sustainability Leader Award in the Downtown NOLA Energy Challenge, the convention center’s efforts not only improve sustainability, but also displays the ways the city of New Orleans is going green to the national stage.
MCCNO began their sustainability efforts in 2010 by computerizing their Energy Management System, which lead to an active cultivation of a culture of sustainable practices. The center created an Assistant Director of Sustainability position in 2018 to spearhead the growing efforts and drive innovation throughout every aspect of operations. MCCNO now tracks metrics of electricity, gas and water consumption, and all recycling, solid waste and edible food donations.
These efforts have had a significant impact on the center’s operations. By installing LED lighting in most of the building as well as more reliable and efficient water metering devices, the cost and energy consumption for the building has been reduced by 25%. Their partnership with the Composting Network has inspired the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Smoothie King Center, and 30 additional hotels to sign on with them as well. More specific initiatives are available on their website.
Bringing conventioneers outdoors is also a key element to their approach. Currently under construction, the 7.5-acre Linear Park will include interactive water features, live event spaces, gathering spaces and public art. A main goal of this project was to create a park where both locals and convention visitors would mingle, activating the length of the convention center and supporting local business retail opportunities.
The park areas were envisioned as “exterior rooms”, creating additional space for attendees to enjoy. Stormwater management was a priority in the design, with the tree root zones of pleasantly shading trees capturing water for the area, reducing the runoff into the larger system. A multi-modal transportation hub at one end of the center adapts the center to the reality that more users are traveling by foot, reducing and organizing traffic while creating a more pleasant arrival experience. An amenity for locals and visitors alike, the park will be complete in Fall of 2020.
Looking towards the future, MCCNO is actively pursuing LEED v4.1 “Silver” Certification in Existing Building Operations and Maintenance (EBOM). They are continuing research on projects including installing solar panels on the roof, replacing all existing water fountains to a more environmentally friendly model and potentially utilizing rain water for green space irrigation and restroom facilities. Creating a more holistic approach, MCCNO also recently partnered with New Orleans & Company to form Green Hospitality NOLA, a joint effort to assist the local hospitality industry in their own sustainability efforts.
Ultimately, the drive to be more sustainable goes beyond simply doing the right thing for the environment. These changes have improved the quality of the guest experience as they visit New Orleans, highlighting the ways that our community adapts to the unique challenges facing our region.