Offered within venues throughout the hospitality, entertainment and conferencing world, the VIP “green room” is thought to date back to medieval times, described as grassy centralized areas where actors performed in the round. Another popular possibility comes from Shakespeare’s day, when actors awaited the stage in a room filled with plants and shrubs.

Today, the “green” of the global environmental, economic and social sustainability movement continues to produce venues and rooms for all people to experience and enjoy. From enhanced health, well being and productivity to numerous economic benefits, widespread research confirms both the human and the business case for green buildings.

According to 2014 findings from Boston-based Lux Research, the $260 billion global market for green buildings is expected to only “intensify.” In the U.S., an estimated 20 percent of new construction is green. Between now and 2023, global spending on “greening” existing infrastructure is expected to top $960 billion.

Sustainability is the future, and it’s blossoming across the global meetings landscape.  

From a field of many, these innovative showcases in the U.S. and abroad reveal the extent to which green consciousness and investing in the future has taken root. On the green stage, everybody stars.

Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland and Global Center for Health Innovation Cleveland

The comprehensive sustainability plan for Cleveland’s new $465 million, LEED Gold-certified convention center and connected healthcare-focused Global Center exhibition facility, which opened in 2013, included preserving the past while protecting the future. More than a century earlier, in 1903, famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham brought his national “City Beautiful” movement to Cleveland, modeling the city’s civic core after comparable campuses from ancient Greek and Rome. As one of the finest surviving examples of the style to this day, the district, known as the Group Plan, includes the Cleveland Mall public park. To introduce the new convention project without upsetting Burnham’s design, the former was constructed below a good two-thirds of the Mall.

Covering 12.5 acres, it’s a unique green roof solution, with extensive plant life and soil materials helping to insulate the convention center while filtering storm water and reducing sewer overflow. Below grade, solutions were focused on conserving resources, recycling materials generated both internally and by convention clients, and utilizing environmentally friendly products and practices.

Specific programs include a sustainability farm that produces food for in-house catering, including chickens for eggs, bees for honey, and vegetables and herbs. With nearly all (95 percent) of demolition materials from the prior site recycled, the center recycles and reuses more than two-thirds of on-site trash, with an eco-friendly dock to ease removal. Underground pipes deliver thermal heat and chilled water to the buildings, eliminating the need for on-site boilers, chillers, air conditioners and related equipment. Featuring extensive natural lighting, the above-ground Global Center for Health Innovation has a white reflective roof to reduce heat gain and lessen energy usage.

Harbour Air
Richmond, British Columbia

Founded in 1982, Harbour Air is the world’s largest all-seaplane airline. Flying more than 450,000 passengers annually throughout British Columbia’s scenic coastal regions, the carrier also offers transportation and tour services to the group market. These include direct flights to key destinations such as Victoria, Vancouver and Whistler, panoramic aerial excursions and programs like the Fly ’n’ Dine Tour to Victoria’s historic Butchart Gardens.

Since 2007, the airline has collaborated with Offsetters Climate Solutions, a division of NatureBank Asset Management, Canada’s largest carbon management solutions provider. The result is North America’s first fully carbon-neutral airline, now offsetting 100 percent of emissions (73,000-plus tonnes in the last decade) from flights and corporate operations.

One year ago, Harbour Air opened its custom-built terminal in Victoria Harbour Airport, featuring a one-acre grass roof.

This June, in celebration of both anniversaries, Harbour Air expanded its enterprise-wide commitment to sustainability by introducing a colony of honey bees and a solar array to the roof.

Initially featuring four hives containing some 10,000 honey bees, the colony, slated to grow to 200,000-plus bees over time, contributes to Victoria’s ecosystem and helps address North America’s declining wild bee populations.

Inside the terminal, travelers can watch the busy bees at work on the “Bee-Cam,” see how the 50 solar panels are feeding the electrical grid, and purchase “Harbour Honey” from the colony.

Springs Preserve
Las Vegas

For millennia, groundwater aquifers provided life-sustaining water to people inhabiting the arid desert area of the future Las Vegas. By 1962, however, the Las Vegas Springs were tapped out from overuse and threatened by development, including running an expressway over the site.

In 1966, archaeological evidence of early human habitation helped secure protection for the site, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Arising from plans to manage and protect the site’s cultural, natural and water resources, Springs Preserve opened to the public in 2007.

Ten years later and the 180-acre campus, just west of Downtown Las Vegas, is an inspiring showcase of sustainable living, design and architecture. Green features abound, including nearly 150,000 square feet of Platinum LEED-certified space; 2,200 photovoltaic arrays generating power for the site; and bio-filtration wetlands that recycle water for reuse on-site.

Affiliated with the Las Vegas Valley Water District, the preserve is also a wellspring of group activities and functions.

Year-round programming includes signature events such as Mardi Gras Las Vegas, Brews and Blues, Haunted Harvest and Dia de Muertos. Nearly four miles of hiking and biking trails weave through 110 acres of native habitats and archaeological sites, and the site overflows with indoor and outdoor group spaces. Highlights include Southern Nevada’s most extensive botanical gardens, hosting up to 500 people; various spaces within the LEED Platinum-certified Desert Living Center; the tiered, open-air Springs Amphitheater for up to 250 people; and the 156-capacity Big Springs Theater.

Designed and built by the UNLV Solar Decathlon Team, the award-winning DesertSol is a unique model of sustainable construction. Ideal for intimate gatherings, this 754-square-foot structure overlooking the preserve’s trails and gardens features pre-weathered materials capable of enduring Las Vegas’ harsh desert environment.  

Copenhagen, Denmark

By 2025, Copenhagen aims to be the world’s first carbon-neutral capital. By 2050, Denmark, a global leader in the development of sustainable technologies since 1980, wants to be fossil fuel-free. Their strides toward these ambitions are attracting major attention. The city and country routinely place at or near the top of livability, sustainability and related global rankings—including on the meetings front.  

Nicknamed the “Capital of Sustainable Meetings,” the city and Copenhagen CVB placed second on last year’s inaugural Global Destination Sustainability Index.

Launched by ICCA’s Scandinavian chapter in partnership with the MCI Group, and since expanded to include IMEX, the index is a collaborative platform promoting sustainability for meetings destinations worldwide.

From dining to transportation (bicycles dominate), Copenhagen is green at every turn. The city’s two largest group venues, Bella Center and Tivoli Congress Center, are Green Key-certified, while nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of all Copenhagen hotel rooms are eco-certified.

Showcasing Denmark’s green leadership via interactive exhibits and installations, the House of Green is a unique venue purpose-designed for green economy business groups and delegations, with flexible meeting areas for networking, collaboration and knowledge-sharing.  

Historic green-branded brewer Carlsberg, which recently introduced its biodegradable Green Fiber Bottle, is another eco-leader. As work proceeds on Carlsberg Byen (“Town”), a $2 billion multiuse redevelopment of its former brewery site that is at the forefront of the city’s sustainability and carbon-neutrality plans, groups can also experience Visit Carlsberg. One of the city’s top attractions, this local treasure hosts tours and events in venues such as the historic Jacobsen Brewhouse and Bar, the elegant and artful Carlsberg Museum and Business Center, and the modern Carlsberg Conference Center.  

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art

North Adams, Mass.

Conceived around 1985, announced in 1987 and opened in 1999, this triumphant “mill to museum” adaptive transformation project represents “one giant 30-year recycling project,” according to Jodi Joseph, the museum’s director of communications.

Featuring an architectural weave of 26 interconnected buildings built between 1860 and the late 1890s on 16 acres, MASS MoCA has evolved in stages. Phase 3, unveiled in May 2017, is massive Building 6, or B6: The Robert W. Wilson Building.

The $55 million renovation of this massive three-story former textile warehouse added 150,000 square feet of gallery and other space, nearly doubling the museum’s footprint to 250,000 square feet. The new building includes all reused, original hardwood factory floors and more than 5,000 original bricks that were removed and then remortared in place. Like other buildings, B6 incorporates solar and other green technologies. Replacing the roof, the 140-foot-long, 20-foot-wide skylight floods the heart of the building with natural light. There are even new green rooms for the many musicians and artists performing here year-round.

On the economic and social side—both fundamental components of sustainability—MASS MoCA continues to stimulate job growth, tourism and redevelopment in North Adams, which experienced a lasting downturn after the site’s last tenant, the famed Sprague Electric Company, closed in 1985. For more on MASS MoCA, see our destination coverage of The Berkshires in next month’s issue.

Prague Congress Center Prague,
Czech Republic

Offering 20 halls and 50 rooms, including the 2,764-capacity Congress Hall, and more than 42,000 square feet of versatile exhibition space, this spacious and scenic venue, accommodating up to 9,300 delegates, is the largest convention facility in the Czech Republic.

To counter public perceptions that it was also “a giant that devours an endless amount of energy,” the facility recently undertook an extensive reconstruction and modernization of its heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting systems.

Completed in spring 2017, the roughly $5.6 million investment is already paying dividends, with savings on energy costs, already at 30 percent of where they were in 2013, quickly exceeding expectations.  

Earning EKO Gold certification for its total renewably resourced electrical supply, the center’s internal environment is also healthier.

Monitored by technicians, a new intelligent control system precisely regulates the performance of updated engines, cooling machines and heat sources in response to variable factors such as the weather, occupancy levels of rooms, hallways and other areas, and carbon dioxide levels in the air.

Unique features include the filtering of dust, pollen and other allergens from fresh outside air drawn into the air conditioning system before it is distributed throughout the facility. Lighting upgrades included sensor-controlled LED systems in the basement, corridors and parking garage that dim or brighten according to the movement of people and cars.

“We are not indifferent to what we leave behind,” stated Lenka Zlebkova, the center’s sales and marketing director, in a press release. “We want to be environmentally friendly and socially responsible, and to promote good things to the same extent as we strive to provide our clients with the best conditions, safety and comfort while organizing their meetings.”