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Vancouver Convention Center on the Leading Edge for Sustainability

Vancouver, British Columbia has long been a draw for international visitors, both by its beautiful natural setting as well as the city’s multi-cultural, cosmopolitan feel. But in 2009, the opening of the Vancouver Convention Centre’s new West Building set it apart as one of the best — and greenest — convention and meeting centers in the world.

Starting at the top, the West Building’s 6-acre ‘living roof’ is a fully-functioning eco-system, landscaped as a completely self-sustaining grassland habitat which boasts 400,000 native plants and 4 colonies of 60,000 bees. The living roof is irrigated by the building’s own wastewater, which is processed on-site in a state-of-the-art treatment facility and also recycled for toilet flushing. The rooftop can also be irrigated by seawater drawn from the harbour and treated in an on-site desalinization plant. The building also utilized the seawater of the harbour it is built over to power its heating and cooling system, in a system which greatly reduces the total amount of energy needed to heat and cool the 220,500 square feet (20,490 m2) of convention space.

The site of the West Building was formerly an industrial zone for ships and trains, and so the land was damaged and contaminated. Therefore, the West Building was designed to mitigate some of these negative natural impacts. Below the building’s pier foundations, channels create a tidal zone that naturally flushes each day. A series of concrete steps around the perimeter of the building act as an artificial reef, supporting a diversity of marine species and harbor fauna adapted to the specific depths of the steps. This restoration of the waterfront shoreline ecology is fully successful and now supports a historic salmon migration path.

Inside the convention centre, nearly half of all waste that is generated is recycled – averaging about 180,000 kilograms of material each year. Food and beverage services focus on using fresh local ingredients, creating as much ‘from scratch’ as possible and avoiding canned goods. Disposable utensils which can end up in landfills are avoided, and leftover food is donated to local charities.

The west Building expansion is certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum and has been recognized with numerous awards for environmental best practices in design and building management. This innovative convention and event space may very well be the shape of the future!

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