The Knoxville Convention Center was recently awarded LEED Silver Certification for Existing Buildings by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for the facility’s sustainable operational policies. The facility is the first convention center Tennessee to achieve LEED certification for its green initiatives.

“The Convention Center is committed to being a facility that takes the environmental impact of its operations seriously, and our sustainable practices are intricately woven into our everyday operations,” said General Manager Mary Bogert. “This certification demonstrates this commitment. We are grateful to the city of Knoxville for placing high value on sustainability and to the city of Knoxville Department of Sustainability and its energy contractor, Ameresco, for partnering with our staff to help achieve this goal.”

In order to achieve LEED Certification for Existing Buildings, the Convention Center was scored in accordance with rigorous guidelines set forth by the USGBC. LEED certification candidates must verify the implementation of sustainable practices that reduce the environmental impacts of their building, including regular exterior building site maintenance programs; efficient water and energy use; environmentally preferred practices for building cleaning and updates; sustainable purchasing policies; waste stream management; and ongoing indoor environmental quality.

“I applaud the staff of the Knoxville Convention Center on their commitment to sustainability and congratulate them on this award,” said Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. “Their commitment furthers the City of Knoxville’s focus on sustainability and renewable resources. Recently, we were proud to place the largest solar panel installation on any City-owned facility on the roof of the Convention Center to provide clean, renewable energy to the region.”

The rooftop solar photovoltaic system, which consists of 120 kilowatts and more than 450 panels, is just one of the green energy retrofits made to the facility.  New energy efficient boilers, a 30-ton air cooled chiller, window film, a new domestic hot water system and lighting systems have also been installed to reduce the center’s carbon footprint and make the building more sustainable.

“LEED certification will make our facility even more competitive in the national and regional market,” said Bogert.  “But most importantly, it is the right thing to do. We believe Knoxville’s natural beauty is a huge attraction for our area, and we are committed to protecting the natural resources of this community for our visitors and residents.”

The facility also implements sustainable purchasing policies. The in-house food and beverage department, SAVOR, uses primarily local products purchased within 90 miles of the facility and also operates a farm-to-table program. Some herbs and produce used in the center’s catering are grown on-site in functional landscaping around the property and in a grow room in the facility.

“Through our energy efficiency efforts, we save approximately $165,000 each year. Upgrading our boiler system to a more efficient system alone allowed us to decrease our natural gas costs by 50 percent,” said Bogert. “We save an additional $2,500 by growing herbs and produce in-house.”

To achieve LEED certification, the Knoxville Convention Center submitted detailed documents verifying compliance with USGBC guidelines. The city of Knoxville’s energy contractor, Ameresco, assisted the facility with the application process.

“We commend the City of Knoxville and the Knoxville Convention Center for their commitment to environmental stewardship and leadership in sustainability,” said David J. Anderson, Executive Vice President, Ameresco.  “Ameresco is proud to be a valued partner, and we congratulate the Knoxville Convention Center for earning the prestigious LEED Silver certification, and demonstrating their vision to the municipal community.”

In March 2011, the Knoxville Convention Center was also the first convention center in the state to become certified to Tennessee Green Hospitality by the Tennessee Hospitality Association.