Construction is Going Green in the Hospitality and Gaming Industry

Like a gold medalist setting new records at the Olympics, CityCenter has raised the bar for the greening of the hospitality and gaming industry with its six LEED Gold certifications. Las Vegas’ newest and largest hospitality project ranks among the world’s—that’s right, world’s—largest environmentally sustainable developments. With that said, as new hospitality and gaming projects come to fruition, owners will need to consider all of the pros and cons of sustainable design and construction to stay competitive.

In addition to MGM MIRAGE, developer of CityCenter, the first major casino owner to put might and money behind an eco-friendly resort was Las Vegas Sands Corp., developer of The Palazzo resort and casino. The Palazzo hotel was awarded LEED Silver in 2008. At that time, it was not only the largest LEED-certified building in the United States, but more than four times bigger than the second-largest LEED project.

While not all of Las Vegas’ new hospitality and gaming projects have attempted LEED certification, many have implemented green techniques that save operating costs and are contributing to a more sustainable environment. By employing green practices, project owners also earn bragging rights to market eco-friendly claims aimed at attracting a growing number of environmentally conscious consumers.

Sustainable construction is not only advantageous for casino owners and operators; it is good for the construction industry. Most major general contractors are already active participants in green construction. Certainly, it is the “right” thing to do, but it makes economic sense for building companies to embrace and diversify in this direction.

Getting Started
Success starts at the top. Solid leadership, collaboration and commitment are paramount to sustainable construction. CityCenter’s success in achieving LEED Gold certification on such a massive project was due to MGM MIRAGE’s vision and willingness to stay the course. Senior management was actively engaged in the entire five-year process from the start of design through construction and occupancy.

Secondly, the design and construction team selected for your project must be equally dedicated to green building construction, especially if you are attempting to achieve LEED rating through the U.S. Green Building Council. Gensler, the executive architect for CityCenter, worked in tandem with MGM MIRAGE management to set the stage for LEED compliance. Gensler helped MGM MIRAGE assemble a team of LEED experts. Granted, few projects will match the size and scope of CityCenter requiring such a cadre of experts, but uniting a quality team is imperative regardless of the size of the project.

The construction team’s impact on earning LEED credits can be substantial. The general contractor should be involved in the preconstruction phase of the project and work along side the planning and design team. It is during this phase that maximum savings are realized. The preconstruction phase is a time to gather data, provide client feedback and suggest options for pursuing the most important material-based credits in cost effective ways. In the preconstruction phase at CityCenter, the project’s LEED teams collaborated to model costs for green building components, site-based management plans and building systems.

The general contractor is also responsible for maintaining systems for tracking and documenting many of the construction phase LEED credits. Working closely with CityCenter’s 250 subcontractors, their vendors and suppliers, Perini managed LEED compliance for more than $1 billion worth of building materials.
Citing CityCenter as an example, construction areas of impact on LEED certification included:

Construction Waste Management
• Hauled in excess of 295,000 tons of waste from the site of which more than 276,000 tons was diverted from landfill; 93 percent overall diversion
• Recycled or reused more than 80 percent of the imploded Boardwalk Hotel and Casino, including doors, hardware, scrap steel, other metals and carpet sold to resellers; broken tiles, concrete and asphalt taken offsite, crushed and made ready for reuse as backfill or underlayment; salvaged toilets and countertops donated for reuse
• Donated 82 tons of used wood to the local Carpenters Apprenticeship training center

Recycled Content
• Used fly ash as cement replacement in more than 1 million cy; averaged 4 percent of mixes by weight. Fly ash, a byproduct of coal burning, is a fine, glass-like powder comprised of the non-combustible mineral portion of coal.
• Achieved a 26 percent recycled content for all applicable construction materials.

Manufactured and Extracted Regional Materials
• Procured more than 48 percent of the applicable construction materials from manufacturers within a 500-mile radius
• Majority of structural and reinforcing steel manufactured within 500 miles of job
• Concrete manufactured in a temporary batch plant adjacent to the CityCenter jobsite and all raw materials extracted within 500 miles
• Majority of drywall sourced within 500 miles of job
• Majority of millwork/cabinetry manufactured within 500 miles of job

FSC Certified Wood
• Worked with subcontractors to ensure a minimum of 50 percent of wood was certified in accordance with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) guidelines and carried a chain-of-custody
• Researched wood materials to ensure products met FSC requirements
• Contracted with distributors and manufacturers bearing FSC chain-of-custody certification
• Performed sensitivity analyses during procurement to identify wood materials to be sourced FSC
• Assisted subcontractors to become FSC certified in order to provide materials to CityCenter

CityCenter created a market for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood use in Las Vegas. Perini and its subcontractors procured more than 91 percent of the total wood for the ARIA Resort & Casino and Crystals through/from FSC chain-of-custody certified suppliers and manufacturers. FSC wood products came from more than 85 FSC certified mills, material vendors, suppliers, distributors, manufacturers and fabricators.

Construction Indoor Air Quality Management (IAQ)
• Developed, implemented, maintained and monitored an Indoor Air Quality Management Plan to protect the workers during construction and prevent indoor air quality problems in the future
• Educated subcontractors of all trades about what is required for plan compliance
• Performed weekly site inspections to ensure field compliance with the plan

Low-Emitting Materials
• Used paint, adhesives and sealants throughout the 18-million-square-foot project that met the LEED referenced standards
• Procured/installed low-emitting Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Certified carpet systems
• All composite wood (plywood, MDF, particleboard) free of added urea-formaldehyde

Construction Pollution Prevention
• Implemented and maintained a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan and Dust Control Plan to mitigate and manage the disturbed site during construction
• Used reclaimed water from Monte Carlo’s cooling tower to control dust during CityCenter construction, saving 2.4 million gallons of potable water and the energy required to process and pump it
• Used soil surfactant and tackifier to lessen the occurrence of stockpiled and unimproved surface dirt becoming airborne

Biodiesel
• Subcontractors on CityCenter used a B20 blend of biodiesel in their equipment for site work and excavation. Use of biodiesel was tracked and reported, resulting in the award of a LEED Innovation Credit for reducing carbon emissions and utilizing local yellow food grease that is otherwise sent to a landfill.

MGM MIRAGE surpassed LEED expectations with the design of ARIA’s casino. Because the casino is not smoke-free, it is unable to earn LEED certification; however, the area still earned enough LEED points to be equivalent to Silver certification. To improve the casino’s air quality, MGM MIRAGE insisted on a displacement air ventilation system. One of the project’s toughest challenges. The airflow in the casino streams under the floor through slot machine bases resulting in fresh air delivered directly to the guest, better indoor quality and a more comfortable environment. Traditional casino airflow is from the ceiling down. The new design required over a thousand floor penetrations and complex ductwork.

The list presented by no means exhausts how construction can impact a project. Each project is unique and allows for numerous ways to achieve environmentally sustainable goals.

The greening of the hospitality and gaming industry is here to stay. It can produce sustainable cost savings through less energy consumption over the life of a building.

It can have a positive impact on the local economy through the use of local products. Designers and contractors have joined the effort. Industry giants have blazed pathways. More and more consumers are recognizing the benefits of sustainable practices and are more demanding in their economic choices. In a fiercely competitive industry, marketing green is an effective tool to lure customers. If a consumer has a choice between two comparable hotels and one promotes superior air quality and demonstrates eco-friendly building practices, you have a potential tiebreaker and one more loyal customer.

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