But last week, I saw the future of meeting venues. Just 88 days before the April opening date for the new Ottawa Convention Centre, members of the OCC Advisory Board donned hard hats, steel-toed boots, reflective vests, and safety glasses to tour a project for which the local meetings industry had been fighting, lobbying, and begging for 15 years.
The 200,000-square-foot convention center will be one of a new generation of myth-busting meeting facilities, proving that no one has to choose between affordability, convenience, participant comfort, and sustainable design. The smart, intuitive layout shows that designers were listening to the suggestions from planners on the advisory board.
On the bustling construction site, we saw forethought taking shape: generous pre-function space, an extra plenary hall to allow concurrent bookings, restrooms that can be reallocated to match the gender balance of attendees. These and other bright ideas cost little or nothing to build into the facility but will make a big, memorable difference for planners and participants.
The OCC’s design directive—think it out in advance, then build it in—is the same principle at the heart of sustainable design. And that’s what makes this week’s column a commercial for smart, efficient meeting facilities, of which my hometown convention center is just the latest example.
To achieve the LEED Silver designation that was a condition of the OCC’s convoluted funding deal, designers built in a cluster of features to reduce the facility’s environmental footprint. Here are some of the highlights, and we’ve told more of the story on our company blog.
- A cistern will collect rain water to flush toilets and to water plants, and outdoor landscaping will rely on native species that are adapted to Ottawa’s climate.
- A white roof will reflect heat, rather than absorb it, to reduce cooling loads during the city’s hot, humid summers.
- The 1,084 glass panels on the building’s façade are double-paned and filled with argon gas, giving them a higher insulation rating than many solid walls.
- Indoor temperature controls direct heating and cooling to the lower 15 feet of the rooms, wasting less energy to warm the air over participants’ heads.
- The project is expected to exceed LEED standards by reducing construction waste on the job site by 90 percent. On the tour, we saw roof trusses in the new convention center that had been recycled from the old.
Construction and major renovations are the moments in a building’s life cycle when it makes most sense to reduce energy, water, and waste, producing the best green savings and delivering the greatest benefit to occupants. By seizing that moment, the Ottawa Convention Centre has become an elegant example of what every planner should demand in every facility.
Mitchell Beer, CMM, is president of The Conference Publishers Inc., Ottawa, one of the world’s leading specialists in capturing and repurposing conference content. Beer blogs at http://theconferencepublishers.com/blog. Send comments, facts, arguments, or column ideas to .