By Rachel Leber
SAVANNAH, Ga. — The Savannah International Trade & Convention Center (SITCC) in Savannah was awarded LEED Gold certification for existing buildings on July 20, making it the first convention center in Georgia to obtain this certification. The Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) manages the building along with SITCC’s sister site — the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, which earned LEED Silver certification in 2014.
SITCC’s prioritizes the continuous improvement of operational efficiencies and the preservation of resources in its building and construction efforts, and obtained LEED certification for the facility to demonstrate continued stewardship toward the environment and its clients, according to Sherrie Spinks, general manager at SITCC. With that goal in mind, the SITCC team — along with sustainability consultants and engineers from the Sustainable Investment Group in Atlanta, Ga. — undertook the LEED EB: O+M certification process in 2016 and undertook significant updates to comply with the standards with a budget of $100,000 to do so.
Over the course of nine months, the team focused on sustainable policy implementation, an American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Level I Energy Audit and various upgrades that resulted in 77 ENERGY STAR equivalent score and earning the building 60 points for LEED Gold for Existing Buildings certification. When all was complete, only $65,000 of the budget was used, making this a financial win for the project as well as the successes related to environmental stewardship, according to Spinks.
“Convention centers sometimes have difficulty comparing operational efficiencies due to the unique nature of the industry from event frequency, size and type,” said Tim Trefzer, LEED accredited professional, manager of corporate social responsibility at GWCCA in a statement. “The LEED rating system provided us with a baseline for sustainable operations and maintenance, and we at GWCCA and the on-site team in Savannah are ecstatic to have met the stringent environmental criteria of a LEED Gold building.”
Some of the specific factors that helped the building to achieve LEED Gold status includes the 2016 installation of HVLS fans in the public concourse to reduce energy consumption and improve overall attendee comfort in these areas. GWCCA also increased the inventory of public space recycling units to encourage patrons to contribute to recycling efforts. The carpet and ceiling tile was replaced with 99 percent of materials meeting sustainability criteria of recycled content and low-chemical materials, with the new public space carpet being 100 percent recyclable at the end of its life. Eighty-one percent of debris generated from these upgrades was diverted from landfill and recycled. Additionally, one-piece table skirts were purchased to reduce linen usage and labor for room sets.
With all building upgrades completed and the existing practices of the building participants included, 44 percent of building occupants use alternative commuting options, with 32 percent water use reduction and 100 percent of energy usage for 2017 and 2018 being offset by Renewable Energy Certificates (wind power offsets). And 94 percent of janitorial cleaning and paper products purchased meet sustainable criteria, with the average mercury content of lamps in the building at 84.25 picograms per lumen hour.
“We are all very proud of our team and this accomplishment in our first application for LEED certification,” said Spinks. “We will take the things we learned through the process and continue to improve our operations further.”
SITCC is located across the Savannah River from downtown Savannah and the River Street neighborhood on Hutchinson Island, and was built in 2000. The building is 376,724 square feet, and features 100,000 square feet of divisible exhibit space, 50,000 square feet of meeting space, including 13 meeting rooms, four executive board rooms, a 25,000 square foot Grand Ballroom and a 367-seat auditorium.