How Top U.S. Convention Centers Stack Up on Sustainability

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Skift Take

As planners look to track event sustainability, selecting the right venue can go a long way to reducing any meeting's environmental impact.

Meeting planners working with clients looking to create the most sustainable events possible typically have a list of high-level priorities to check off their list. In addition to creating menus based on sustainably sourced foods, connecting with community organizations that provide activities that focus on a sustainable legacy and eliminating swag giveaways, selecting an event venue that has been certified for upholding a high level of environmental integrity. In other words, for those planning larger events, convention center sustainability is a priority.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) compiled a list of the 30 largest convention centers in the U.S. and ranked them based on floor space, meeting room availability, local facilities, meal affordability, and vibrancy of the surrounding community, among other criteria. But how did these venues compare when considering sustainability?

Assessing Venue Sustainability

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a globally recognized designation for green buildings that have been designed to reduce or eliminate their carbon footprint and create environmental and social benefits. 

LEED certification is governed by the U.S. Green Building Council, which offers four tiers of certification that address how efficiently a structure addresses carbon emissions, energy and water usage, waste management, transportation, materials, health, and indoor environmental quality. 

The LEED building rating system is offered for a number of different building types, for both new builds and rennovations, and also homes and entire cities. The score below refers to current LEED certification. The tiers are separated by a point system, with a maximum of 110 total points on offer.

  • Platinum: 80+ 
  • Gold: 60 – 79
  • Silver: 50 – 59
  • Certified 40 – 49

Venue Sustainability Frontrunners – Platinum

There are only U.S. convention centers that currently hold the highest level of LEED certification. The two Platinum-certified properties are the San Francisco’s Moscone Center (82 pts.) and the Seattle Convention Center (80 pts.). While the WSJ list was topped by the Las Vegas Convention Center followed by Chicago’s McCormick Place, both center are currently awaiting LEED certification.

Sustainability Gold Standard 

  • Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, CA (76 pts.)
  • Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C. (75 pts.)
  • Huntington Place, Detroit, MI (70 pts.)
  • Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA (69 pts.)
  • Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA (67 pts.)
  • Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL (66 pts.)
  • Colorado Convention Center, Denver, CO (65 pts.)
  • Georgia World Conference Center, Atlanta, GA (65 pts.)
  • San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA (65 pts.)
  • George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston, TX (63 pts.)
  • The Venetian Convention and Expo Center, Las Vegas, NV (60 pts.)

Silver-level Certification  

  • Boston Convention Center, Boston, MA (54 pts.)
  • Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami, FL (54 pts.)
  • Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, TX (53 pts.) 
  • Greater Columbus Convention Center, Columbus, OH (51 pts.) 
  • Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville, KY (51 pts.)

Uncertified Properties 

One third of the 30 largest U.S. convention centers lack an updated LEED certification. These buildings may have certified in the past but do not currently hold and LEED certification. The ten convention centers listed below may hold other sustainability certifications such as the Events Industry Council’s Sustainable Event Standards.

  • America’s Center, St. Louis, MO
  • Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, IN
  • International Exposition Center (I-X Center), Cleveland, OH
  • Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, NY
  • Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, Dallas, TX
  • Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV
  • NRG Center, Houston, TX
  • Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA
  • Phoenix Convention Center, Phoenix, AZ
  • Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, UT