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Greening of Hospitality Industry
Georgia World Congress Center Becomes World's Largest LEED Certified Convention Center

The Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) was recently awarded LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system for the design, operation and maintenance of green buildings. The GWCC is now the world's largest LEED certified convention center. With 3.9 million sq. ft., the GWCC is also the 14 th largest LEED certified building in the world.

The facility, located in downtown Atlanta, first opened in 1976 with a total of 750,000 sq. ft. The fourth and final phase of construction of the building was completed in 2002 bringing the total square footage up to the current 3.9 million, including 1.4 million of exhibit space.

"We could not be happier to receive this certification," said Frank Poe, executive director of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA), the State Authority that governs the GWCC, Georgia Dome, Centennial Olympic Park and manages the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. "Our staff has worked diligently to green our event practices, reduce our environmental impact, and preserve our facilities for future generations. This recognition solidifies our leadership role in our industry and demonstrates our commitment to the community."

Staff of the GWCCA created an internal "sustainability committee" to explore sustainable options for the facility in 2005. Educating staff and implementing a paper recycling program were two of the team's initial focuses. In 2010, the convention center hired Tim Trefzer as the facility's first sustainability coordinator. With a position solely focused on sustainability, the center has been able to make substantial changes including waste diversion and energy conservation. "Tim Trefzer and the GWCCA Sustainability Committee did an outstanding job securing this award.  We are very proud to be LEED Silver certified, this is a monumental achievement for the GWCC and the convention industry as a whole," said Mark Zimmerman, general manager of the Georgia World Congress Center.

"Convention centers have difficulty comparing operational efficiencies because of the unique nature of the industry, whether it is event frequency, size, or type," said Trefzer, who is also a LEED Accredited Professional. "The LEED rating system provides a baseline for sustainable operations and maintenance and we at GWCC are ecstatic to be the largest building of our type in the world to meet these stringent environmental criteria."

In FY14, the GWCC diverted over 275 tons of single-stream recyclables, 119 tons of organics for composting, donated over 58 tons of food to local organizations, baled over 27 tons of cardboard and diverted a total of 602 tons of material from landfills. The GWCC is a sponsor of the Green Meetings Industry Council (Atlanta Branch), a participant in the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge and a member of the US Green Building Council. GWCC is approximately 27% more energy efficient than an average building of similar size and characteristics. With its central urban location, recent installation of an electric vehicle charging station, and employee incentives, 47% of regular employees have reduced commutes to the building and therefore limit the transportation-related air quality issues by using mass transit, car or vanpooling, compressed work weeks, and telecommuting.
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