Oregon Convention Center: Success and sustainability


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Oregon Convention Center, operated by the regional government Metro, symbolizes the kind of public/private partnerships Oregonians have come to expect.

Twenty-five years old this year, the center has a successful history of bringing trade shows, exhibitions and conferences to Portland. Events held at the center in 2014 brought more than $294 million in direct spending to the Portland metropolitan area and supported 5,000 jobs.

OCC's Smart Energy Circle membership is just one of the many ways the center strives to reduce the environmental impact of such a large facility. And today, sustainability is not only part of its operational commitment – it's also a part of its business strategy. By serving as a green model, OCC attracts organizations and businesses that want to learn from and support sustainable business practices.

LEED PlatinumErin Rowland, OCC's sustainability coordinator, said, "From an industry perspective, it's a great benefit for us to demonstrate that we're doing whatever we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It's also a point of pride for us to support renewable energy development in the Pacific Northwest."

It's the building – and a lot more. Let's start with the big one: LEED Platinum Certification in 2014. Only 

one other convention center in the nation holds this, the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. This is a particular 

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accomplishment, because the center was built well before LEED existed, and because LEED certification is rare in such a large facility.

But that's far from the only honor the convention center has received for sustainable construction and operation:

  • The Oregon Convention Center met Level 4 APEX/ASTM certification, established jointly by the Convention Industry Council and ASTM, an independent agency that develops international business standards. According to the CIC website, APEX/ASTM standards provide "a comprehensive roadmap for improving and measuring event sustainability on an ongoing basis."
  • Salmon-Safe focuses on land management practices with the goal of keeping local rivers and streams healthy for migrating fish. This organization recently recertified the convention center, citing practices like keeping its extensive grounds pesticide-free; establishing a rain garden that filters contaminants from storm water; and building a new outdoor plaza that invites the public to sit, listen and enjoy events throughout the summer.
  • Travel Portland granted the convention center its Green Award for 2014, recognizing not only achievements for one year, but also the culmination of 25 years of environmental building and event planning.


Day-to-day sustainability. Years of planning and improvements have brought the convention center to its current levels of conservation and energy efficiency. Its first LEED certification, in 2004, made the facility the first convention center to achieve any LEED designation. Since then, it has been recertified twice until gaining the Platinum designation last year. Well-deserved acknowledgments come from actions like:

  • Upgrading bathroom fixtures, resulting in saving about 1,221,180 gallons of water every year;
  • Creating an exclusive arrangement with pacificwild catering, bringing the "farm-to-fork" philosophy to one of the Northwest's major tourist facilities;
  • Implementing a strategic energy management plan, ensuring continuous attention to and reduction in energy use.
  • Setting a goal of zero waste. On its way to achieving its goal, the center currently keeps 69 percent of its waste out of landfills by recycling, composting or donating. Last year, the facility contributed 100,000 pounds of foods and other products to local organizations.

OCC CompostThe Oregon Convention Center is the face of Oregon's tourism industry for event planners across the globe. Its dedication to sustainability – including its commitment to offset carbon emissions associated with natural gas use – demonstrates to all that Oregon's green reputation is well deserved.