Retrofitting a major convention center for LEED Gold certification
The Enercare Centre, located in downtown Toronto, is one of North America’s largest convention facilities. The Centre’s main building, completed in 1997, was designed to connect with two adjacent buildings that had been in place since the 1920s. The facility hosts more than 5.4 million visitors annually at about 60 conventions, trade shows, and other gatherings that occur both indoors and out. The Enercare Centre has a gross floor area of almost 500,000 sq ft., and roughly 1,900 parking spaces (about two-thirds of them subsurface) within its LEED Site Boundary.
The Enercare Centre is part of a multi-venue complex that has committed to a comprehensive green strategy for all its properties; venues on the site strive for sustainable operations on a range of dimensions, including water conservation, waste diversion and energy efficiency. In line with this strategy, in 2012 the Enercare Centre’s managers engaged a design and construction team to help them make adaptations to the facility with the goal of earning LEED EB:O&M (Existing Building Operation and Maintenance) certification. The team approached us for help reaching that ambitious goal; our sustainability team delivered LEED consulting, energy auditing and energy modeling services.
Convention centers present unique challenges when it comes to energy efficiency. The large size of these venues is one obvious challenge. Highly variable occupancy is another: it’s normal for convention centres to welcome thousands of people one day and have just a handful of staff on-site the next. Maintaining good air quality and thermal comfort as conditions inside and outside the venue change is a demanding task--and doing so sustainably adds another layer of challenge.
We began by working with the design team and the facility’s managers to gain a comprehensive understanding of its construction and operations. The building’s facilities were diverse, including everything from the standard loading docks and commercial kitchen facilities to a set of large-animal washing stations (for an agricultural fair that has run annually at the site since 1922). Having developed a rich picture of the building’s component parts and systems -- including HVAC, water and electrical --, we performed a detailed energy audit of the Enercare Centre’s baseline performance in 2012, prior to the green retrofit process.
Our LEED consultants knew that there was more to the building’s performance than its energy usage: also important to the certification process were factors associated with how the facility influenced its users behaviour. Did it have systems that helped visitors dispose of waste responsibly? Did it make it easy for people to get to the venue in a range of ways--not just alone in a car? Adopting a broad perspective that tapped our own team’s extensive green-building knowledge as well as the insights of the people most familiar with the facility itself we proposed an extensive program of interventions to increase the center’s efficiency and minimize its consumption and waste.
Some notable results of these interventions included:
- A reduction of over 45% in water use from washroom fixtures.
- Substantial reduction in energy consumption resulting from lighting systems that gave building operators more precise control.
- The diversion from landfill of an average of 72% of waste from each event.
- A 52% reduction in conventional commuting trips to the venue, resulting from its participation in the Toronto Smart Commute program, an initiative that matches travelers with options like bike-shares and carpools.
On Nov 12, 2014, the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) announced that the Enercare Centre had been awarded LEED Gold Certification. The team’s initial goal had been to earn 50 LEED points, which would have meant certification at the Silver level. The enthusiastic work and energetic collaboration of everyone involved enabled the Centre to earn Gold, with a total of 66 LEED points. The Enercare Centre is one of the first convention centres in Canada to receive this distinction, and its green operations continue to be a major selling point as its leaders promote their facility to conference organizers and trade show leaders around the world.