The virtual summit takes place Wednesday, Sept. 27 from 1-3 p.m. ET. fnPrime members can register for free
Bring your questions and get answers from Joan Stein, nationally recognized ADA expert, in this interactive virtual session
Error Retrieving Data.4
One phone conversation with a local utility representative was all Wayne Rosser needed to validate that the Georgia World Congress Center’s $30 million upgrades were a success.
The convention center in downtown Atlanta had recently upgraded its boilers and chillers and other energy-using systems to increase visitor comfort and produce energy savings that benefit the convention center’s bottom line.
“The representative was well aware of everything that we were doing, and they were giving us a new baseline for energy use,” says Rosser, the center’s facilities and plant manager. “Our representative from Georgia Power actually called me and asked me if I turned off a building” because the energy use was so drastically reduced.
The center saved more than $10 million during the first five years — 2017-2022 — after the project was completed, and a significant amount of the savings came from the boiler upgrades.
The Georgia World Congress Center opened in 1976 as a 350,000-square-foot facility, and through five expansions — including one in 2020 — evolved into its current state: a 3.9-million-square-foot facility that is among the largest convention centers in the country, one of the few capable of hosting events that draw up to 75,000 attendees.
Convention centers in U.S. cities bring millions of people and billions of dollars in revenue to cities, and the competition to bring major events to these cities is intense.
In October 2015, Georgia World Congress Center officials embarked on a $30 million project to keep the convention center in the mix for such events, as well as to reduce energy costs and its carbon footprint. The project included upgrading interior and exterior lighting, implementing water-saving measures that included upgrading restrooms and replacing boilers and chillers.
The center consists of three major buildings — A, B and C. The latest expansion connected the C building with the rest of the buildings and added an exhibit hall.
The convention center has completed the expansions with sustainability in mind. The center started the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) process in 2005 and received silver certification in 2014, followed by gold certification in 2017.
“We’re a big footprint in downtown Atlanta, and we’re always trying to improve but also trying to minimize our carbon footprint at the end of the day, whether that’s through waste stream recycling or installing PVC white roofing to improve energy efficiency,” says Kevin Duvall, the center’s chief operating officer. “It’s an important message to customers to say that we believe we can have an impact on how we operate our buildings efficiently.”
Achieving LEED gold certification arose in part from the convention center’s participation in the state’s energy-savings performance contracting program. The program helped upgrade other areas of the facility, such as lighting, to pave the way for larger projects, such as replacing the boilers.
A perfect storm of events – aging equipment and a desire to cut energy costs and reduce the convention center’s carbon footprint – made late 2015 the right time to undertake the massive project.
“The fact of the matter is the boilers and chillers were just old,” says Rosser. “They were not as efficient as today’s technology is, and technology changes relatively quickly. If you aren’t careful, you get way behind.
“Some of the equipment was getting close to life expectancy, so we wanted to change it, update it, and it helped us with the power bill. Changing the lights out brought the bill down enough to help pay for the boiler project.”
The $30 million was secured for the project after Georgia residents approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 to allow energy performing contracting. Once the amendment became a law, the convention center pursued the energy contract and paved the way for such projects to move forward.
Dave Lubach is the executive editor for the facility market. He has eight years of experience covering facilities management and maintenance.
Boiler Upgrade Provides Atlanta Convention Center With World-Class Energy Efficiency