As I sat down to write this month’s Editor’s Note, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of green guilt as within hours, I would be on a plane, increasing my carbon footprint en route to what many would probably guess to be one of the most unsustainable places in the country: Las Vegas. Everything may be bigger in Texas, but it’s supersized in Las Vegas as well. Las Vegas brings to mind enormous casinos that stretch across acres with windowless gaming rooms and tricked-out over-the-top luxury suites. It’s known as a city of excess and sin, not efficiency and sustainability.
I started to feel guilty, but then I began to wonder: Could that association with excess eventually become a bum rap? Last year, the opening of the megadevelopment CityCenter seemed to be a step in a new direction, with several LEED Gold–rated entities among the offerings. In our hospitality issue last year, we spoke with Cindy Ortega, senior vice president of energy and environmental services for MGM Mirage, about this supposed green giant. (Click here to reread our Q&A, “Sustainability is a Golden Ticket in Las Vegas.”) Now, a year later, as our hospitality issue for 2011 hits mailboxes, I’m interested to head to Vegas myself for the ASHRAE Winter Conference and the concurrent AHR Expo, and check out the spaces myself.
Checking back in with spaces, as faithful readers will know, is the purpose of our Flashback column and the project featured in our January/February issue, the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, is the equivalent of hitting the jackpot. An AIA COTE Top Ten project, the building was a groundbreaking development when it opened up just over 10 years ago and since then, it has continued to evolve and grow in terms of efficiency and performance. The best part: The students and faculty in the building have rigorously tracked data, all of which can be accessed continually online. (Check out the dashboard here: http://www.oberlin.edu/ajlc/ajlcHome.html) This issue, our Flashback piece revisits the building itself, and in an equivalent to winning a bonus round or two on the slots, we’ve also got an online companion Q&A with David Orr, the Paul Sears distinguished professor of environmental studies and politics at Oberlin.
If you go back and reread our interview with Ortega, you’ll recall the challenges she describes of sourcing and specifying green technologies and materials for such a large-scale project. This month, we also explore the challenge of size as it relates to sustainability in two specific project types: convention centers and collegiate sports and recreation venues. In one online-exclusive essay, Darren Johnson of UHG Consulting walks through the process and challenges of obtaining LEED certification for the Colorado Convention Center. How do you design for venues that are in use sporadically by a wide range of clients and whose goal is to bring in more visitors who then generate more waste?
In a second essay, "Giving Green a Sporting Chance," two principals from Sasaki Associates, Tim M. Stevens, AIA, and Bill Massey, AIA, discuss how green initiatives should be used to push recreation centers not only to LEED standards, but beyond them as well.
Big or small I believe that any step toward reducing waste, energy use, water consumption, and increasing performance and the quality of design and architecture is a win-win situation for everyone involved, be they architects, building owners and operators, builders and contractors, designers, and occupants. Exploring big ideas to get to smaller ecological footprints are, in my book, a jackpot indeed. I may not leave Vegas with any winnings in my pocket this week, but I’m sure I’ll come back with new information. Here’s hoping this month’s newsletter gives you a few takeaways as well.