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Five convention centers in Europe for greener events

At totm exposition, we are very conscious that our industry has a lot of progress to make in terms of sustainability. That’s why we have been sharing several articles on this subject. 

The first two articles discussed what event planners could do to make their events greener (How to reduce the environmental impact of your events, Part 1—travel and transportation, and Part 2—energy and F&B). 

We also showcased five convention centers in the USA and Canada that have taken steps to ensure their operations become more sustainable.

To round up (for now) our tour of green convention centers worldwide, we are focusing now on Europe, with five more convention centers that are working hard on their sustainability goals.

Austria—Austria Center Vienna

Austria Center Vienna

Photo courtesy of acv.at, Walter Luttenberger for Austria Center Vienna

A few facts about the Center

Since it opened in 1987, the Austria Center Vienna has been Austria’s largest conference center. The center includes 19 halls and 180 meeting rooms on five levels, amounting to 279,862 sq. ft. of exhibition/networking space and a capacity of up to 22,800 visitors. The rooms come in all sizes and can accommodate 4 to 4,320 people. 

Sustainable initiatives

As a publicly owned company, the Center recognizes its environmental and social responsibilities. They have made a point of taking steps that have a real impact on their ecological footprint.

While they have made improvements since the building was built in 1987, they also have plans for a more sustainable future. These include continuous modernization measures, greening exterior spaces, raising awareness about environmentally friendly travel options, and hosting increasing numbers of green meetings.

The Center focuses on the following areas.

Becoming more energy-efficient

Since 1987, the Austria Center Vienna has been through several modernization programs. The high-efficiency heat recovery technology installed in 2018 in the ventilation system has cut energy use by 90%, while unused waste heat from the air conditioning units is injected into Vienna’s district heating network.

The Center reckons the switch to LEDs saves about 500,000 kWh of energy each year. LEDs also generate less heat than regular light bulbs, which means less demand for cooling power in hot weather.

The solar panels on the roof of the Center provide hot water for all kitchens and restrooms. The Center also has its own well, which is used for flushing the toilets in the whole building, and supplies the water required for the cooling systems.

Finally, all the electricity comes from renewable sources, mainly hydro, and is CO2 emission-free.

Reducing waste

To reduce waste from the Center’s operations as well as from the events hosted there, the Center distributes information on waste prevention measures to employees and participants. 

They will also adapt their waste management concept to an event’s requirements.

The main measures include not using disposable crockery, cans or coffee capsules, or disposable packaging for giveaways, keeping printed materials to an absolute minimum and only using eco-certified paper when printed materials are necessary.

Promoting local food

The Center’s exclusive catering partner, MOTTO, offers custom-made culinary concepts and is certified according to the eco-label for green meetings. They use local ingredients and favor seasonal dishes, including vegetarian and vegan options.

Promoting mass and/or green transportation

The Center has excellent access to Vienna’s public transport network and actively promotes its use among organizers and visitors.

Promoting green meetings

The Center encourages planners to work towards sustainable solutions for the events that take place at the Center. The Center helps plan the event and obtain certification for it—free of charge. Their green meetings offer emphasizes waste prevention, eco-friendly travel options, and regional sourcing of ingredients for catering. 

Awards & certifications

The Center became certified “Green Conference Center” by the Austrian Umweltzeichen eco-label in 2014.

France—Lille Grand Palais

Lille Grand Palais

 Photo courtesy of Maxime Dufour Photographies for Lille Grand Palais

A few facts about the Center

Lille Grand Palais is a 484,376 sq. ft. building offering spaces for events from 20 to 20,000 people. The available spaces include four auditoriums, which can accommodate up to 4,550 people, four exhibition halls with 193,750 sq. ft. of space, two modular multifunctional spaces, and 28 committee rooms with 39 possible configurations installed on four levels and connected to other areas. 

Lille Grand Palais is one of the few convention and exhibition centers to offer conference rooms and a large exhibition area on the same level.

Sustainable initiatives

Lille Grand Palais has long put sustainable development at the heart of its concerns and wants to reduce its environmental impact. As a result, the center has adapted its operating methods to incorporate sustainable development at all times and at all stages of the events they host. In addition, they have launched an ambitious action plan to reduce their environmental impact by reducing consumption flows for paper, energy, and water.

The following are some areas of interest to the center.

Reducing waste

All waste produced at the center is sorted into ordinary industrial waste, cardboard, wood, carpets, scrap metal, and rubble from the events.

Whenever possible, alternative solutions to paper are preferred.

They adapt quantities on the bar to avoid waste, sort waste from the catering area, and recycle it. They also use eco-designed consumables that are more environmentally friendly.

Being part of the community

Lille Grand Palais contributes up to 446 direct and indirect jobs created to the local economy, the equivalent of 73 million dollars in economic benefits for the city of Lille.

Improving air quality

The center has implemented an environmentally friendly cleaning policy, choosing low polluting and degradable cleaning products.

Committing to sustainable purchasing

The center mainly relies on local and regional actors, service providers, and suppliers.

They hold annual meetings with their suppliers to develop new products, seasonal ranges, and organic products.

Awards & certifications

Lille Grand Palais’s commitment to sustainability is evidenced by two certifications, ISO14001 and the “Quality and Sustainable Development Charter” from France Congrès.

Lille Grand Palais has been ISO14001 certified since 2010. ISO14001 is an internationally agreed standard that sets out the requirements for an environmental management system. It helps organizations improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources and waste reduction.

The certification by the “Quality and Sustainable Development Charter” of France Congrès includes 25 commitments grouped according to 3 main axes: supporting customers for the best success of their events, making employees aware of eco-responsibility (Quality and Sustainable Development Guide, ISO Integration Path, participation in the European Weeks of Sustainable Development, …), taking action to protect the environment.

Very recently (end of May 2022), Lille Grand Palais also secured an ISO20121 certification for event sustainability management.

France—Cité des Congrès de Nantes

La Cité des Congrès Nantes

Photo courtesy of La Cité des Congrès de Nantes.

A few facts about the Center

The center includes three auditoriums (450, 800, and 2000 places), 30 meeting rooms, and 64,583 sq. ft. of multi-purpose areas. It can host events from 200 to 4,000 participants.

Sustainable initiatives

For more than 15 years, the congress center has pursued an eco-responsible approach, as evidenced by the several certifications related to sustainability. 

Here are the areas the center is focusing its efforts on.

Becoming more energy-efficient

The Cité has a Centralized Technical Management System (CTMS), which allows efficient energy management of the building’s various technical systems, generating significant savings without loss of control for the users or loss of quality in the services available in the building.

The building is powered 100% by green energy, and waste incineration produces urban steam heating. In addition, energy-saving lamps have been installed (LED), and most rooms get plenty of natural daylight.

Reducing waste

More than 26 types of waste are sorted selectively, and 33% of all waste is recycled. Organizers and exhibitors are also encouraged to sort heavy and bulk waste. 

Being part of the community

The center has implemented a food redistribution system for local associations.

Saving water

Water consumption in the center is controlled and monitored at all times.

Committing to sustainable purchasing

The center uses mostly local eco-friendly contractors, which reduces the carbon footprint for delivery services. In addition, all flower arrangements used on site are made locally. 

Favoring eco-friendly, recyclable, or reusable products

This includes using eco-friendly furniture and settings, eco-designed and carpet-free booths, recyclable carpet when some carpet is necessary, printing all signage with environmentally friendly ink, favoring recyclable materials and reusable installations, etc.

For the catering part, the center offers coffee breaks featuring local organic products or products from fair trade, and the tableware is porcelain.

Awards & certifications

The center has received and maintains several certifications in relation to sustainability: ISO20121 (Sustainable Events) as well as the “Quality and Sustainability Charter” from France Congrès. The Cité is also the only French convention center among the 30 AIPC-certified centers worldwide to have been awarded the AIPC Gold Quality Standards Certification (International Association of Convention Centres).

Ireland—The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD)

Convention Centre Dublin

Photo courtesy of The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD).

A few facts about the Center

The building offers 22 multifunctional rooms suitable for meetings, banquets, conferences, and exhibitions of all shapes and sizes, a 2,000-seat auditorium, and 48,438 sq. ft. of exhibition space. The Forum can accommodate 3,000 participants in its theater setting. The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) is located at the heart of Dublin’s transport hub, just 15 minutes from the airport, and within walking distance of many hotels, restaurants, and attractions.

Sustainable initiatives

The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) is recognized as the world’s first carbon-neutral constructed convention center and one of Europe’s most environmentally friendly venues. Its design meets the highest standards of environmental sustainability. They are also committed to long-term sustainability under the ISO14001 standard.

The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) aims to become Ireland’s most sustainable venue and a leading expert in sustainable event delivery in Europe. To achieve that, they have identified four goals: becoming carbon neutral by 2025, being certified ISO20121 by 2021 (which they achieved), offering sustainable hospitality, and eliminating single-use plastics by 2023.

To reach its goals, The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) relies on the following strategies.

Becoming more energy-efficient

To reduce their overall energy consumption, they rely on a sustainable energy supplier, which has allowed them to reduce their carbon emission output for electricity to zero (representing a 67.5% drop in CO2 emissions). 

They have implemented sustainable systems such as an Integrated Building Automated System (IBAS). They have also installed a thermal wheel heat recovery system and an Ice Storage Thermal Unit (ISTU), which chills water overnight to form large ice blocks that melt during the day to provide air conditioning for the entire building.

The building design uses natural light as much as possible in all foyer spaces and small meeting rooms. In addition, most of the meeting spaces are fitted with motion sensors, which automatically turn off lights when the room is empty, and all of the exterior lights use energy-saving LED bulbs. 

The sleep mode also gets automatically activated for all PCs and equipment in the office.

Finally, they are exploring options for renewable gas as well as researching carbon offsetting where switching is either not possible or unavailable at the moment.

Reducing waste

The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) has put a comprehensive waste management policy in place to help manage the generation and segregation of waste. As a result, they reckon they consistently recycle around 95% of their waste.

The recycling effort is made both within the building and for the events they host (for example, by providing custom-built recycle-friendly bins to help delegates be a part of the process).

Regarding food waste, they are actively exploring initiatives such as converting food waste to fertilizer.

They are also looking into viable alternatives to landfill, such as converting waste to energy.

To eliminate single-use plastics by 2023, they removed them from their cash catering food offering and replaced them with green packaging. 

All their disposable coffee cups are broken down into SRF waste (Solid Recovered Fuel).

The cleaning team also uses reusable microfiber cloths and mops made from recyclable materials that are laundered on-site, as well as recycled paper products and refillable soap dispensers.

Saving water 

To ensure minimum water usage, they have installed sensor taps in all wash hand basins and sensor flushes in all urinals.

Promoting local food

The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) is committed to offering sustainable meals and promises food safety, freshness, small farm economics, and environmental sustainability. They use suppliers from all over Ireland who champion sustainable practices.

In addition, the vast majority of food products, including all beef and chicken supplies, are locally sourced. This ensures meals are fresh and seasonal while also supporting local farmers. In addition, all chocolate, tea, and coffee supplies are fair trade. 

Committing to sustainable purchasing

The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) chooses products and services with minimal or beneficial environmental impacts whenever possible.

Promoting mass and/or green transportation

The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) is a 10-minute walk from the city center and is easily accessible by public transport, with plenty of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment within walking distance.

The center encourages public transport and offers its employees a “Cycle to Work” scheme.

Offsetting carbon emissions

The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) offers clients the opportunity to offset all of their event carbon emissions. They do this by calculating the event’s total CO2 emissions output and matching that to an adequate number of indigenous Irish trees that will be planted throughout Ireland. 

Awards & certifications

The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) holds two ISO accreditations showing its commitment to long-term sustainability: Event Sustainability Management ISO20121 since 2021 and Environmental Standard ISO14001 since 2011.

Spain—IFEMA MADRID

Ifema Madrid

Photo courtesy of IFEMA MADRID.

A few facts about the Center

IFEMA MADRID is a consortium formed by the Community of Madrid, the Madrid City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Montemadrid Foundation. The “Conventions and Congresses” Division manages two venues, the Recinto Ferial (fairgrounds) and, since 2019, Palacio Municipal (convention center), which are both well connected to the city center and close to the airport. These venues can accommodate all types of events: conventions, congresses, product presentations, conferences, symposiums, meetings, gala dinners, sporting events or concerts, etc.

Palacio Municipal comprises more than 322,917 s.ft. of usable space. It has an auditorium with a capacity of 1,812 participants, a multi-purpose room of 25,984 sq. ft., and 32 rooms that can accommodate from 26 to 360 people. 

Recinto Ferial offers a meeting space of 2,152,782 sq. ft. distributed in 13 halls, 85 rooms, two convention centers (the North Convention Centre has an auditorium for 1,100 people and 18 additional rooms; the South Convention Centre offers another auditorium with a capacity of 600 people) and outdoor areas.

Sustainable initiatives

IFEMA MADRID is well aware of the considerable impact that events can have, especially from the environmental point of view, and they are taking steps to make their operations more sustainable. They have published guidelines aimed at exhibitors and visitors.

IFEMA MADRID concentrates its efforts on the following areas for sustainable development, which are included in its annual CSR Master Plan.

Becoming more energy-efficient

The electricity supplied throughout IFEMA MADRID’s facilities comes from 100% renewable sources. The Puerta Sur building is heated by geothermal power, which uses underground energy to heat and supply sanitary hot water in an environmentally friendly way. In addition, photovoltaic panels have been installed. 

Reducing waste

To decrease paper consumption and waste, they have introduced digitalization as much as possible and reduced the number of printers in their offices. They have also eliminated almost all paper passes and invitations.

They try to reduce the overall use of carpeting, eliminating it at some events. They also installed used carpeting at some events and stopped installing perimeter carpeting that connects the stands to the aisles at all fairs.

Finally, they donate surpluses from food sector events for use by various associations, reducing the waste generated.

Thanks to these actions, IFEMA MADRID has reduced its waste ratio by 53% in the last four years, and in 2021, 69.40% of the waste generated was recycled.

Reducing greenhouse gas

As a result of its efforts, IFEMA MADRID has reduced its GHG emissions ratio by more than 72% in the last five years.

Saving water

The drinking and reclaimed water at IFEMA MADRID is supplied through the general water mains and the reclaimed water network. 

IFEMA MADRID has introduced the following measures to reduce water consumption over the years: all irrigation on the site uses reclaimed water, all taps are fitted with flow regulators, and they have installed dry urinals, automatic faucets, and double-flush toilets in the halls and changing rooms, as well as efficient shower heads in the changing rooms. 

The green spaces are planted with plant species, all suited to the local climate and suitable for the reclaimed-water irrigation system. 

They have gradually reduced the area occupied by lawns and grasses to reduce water consumption and maintenance requirements. 

They have prioritized the use of cover plants to stabilize the land, prevent weeds from appearing and enable the use of a localized irrigation system that reduces water consumption. In addition, they use organic fertilizers and only use chemicals to deal with deficiencies, always opting for low-nitrogen formulations to minimize water pollution. They also favor manual and mechanical methods to control weeds, raking, and hoeing so as not to use herbicides.

Promoting mass and/or green transportation

IFEMA MADRID has partnered with Iberdrola on initiatives such as installing the first sustainable public car park at a trade fair site in Spain and organizing activities to promote electric mobility. 

The car park can simultaneously charge 34 vehicles with 100%-green energy. This facility’s use has helped prevent the emission of 8 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

In terms of mobility and electrification of transport, they have a fleet of electric vehicles, which has significantly reduced their annual CO2 emissions from transport.

Awards & certifications

The following certifications are proof of IFEMA MADRID’s commitment to sustainability: ISO50001 (Energy efficiency management for the Puerta Sur building), ISO14001 (environmental management), and ISO20121 (sustainable event management).

In 2021, IFEMA MADRID also received the “Commitment to Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Award” at the 8th Association of Energy Efficiency Companies (A3E) awards.

In conclusion

The most recent heatwaves, wildfires, and other climate-related catastrophes have highlighted the need for everybody to act towards a more sustainable society. Unfortunately, the events industry is by nature not very eco-friendly, but some steps can be taken to improve the impact on the environment.

As we’ve seen, convention centers worldwide are trying to take steps in the right direction and make their operations greener.

Their actions are definitely welcome by event planners who wish to make their events more eco-friendly.

Totm exposition can help you make your tradeshow booths more sustainable. Contact us if you have a project you would like to discuss!