When I stepped onto the construction site for the new Ottawa Convention Centre late last week, during an advance tour for members of the OCC Advisory Board, I saw the end of a 15-year campaign that burned through at least three generations of local industry volunteers.
The original Ottawa Congress Centre opened in 1984, and it wasn’t long before the demands of a modern meeting exceeded the available space. Local meeting professionals worked long and hard to make the economic case for a bigger facility, chronicling the meetings that had gone elsewhere and the jobs and tax revenues Ottawa had lost as a result. As early as 1999, MPI’s Ottawa chapter also urged OCC management to build the facility to a high green standard.
My MeetingsNet column this week looks at what the OCC is achieving through smart design—for the functionality that meeting planners expect, and the sustainable operations the industry needs. Both parts of that improvement will bring new business to the community for decades to come.
A new, sustainable product
has not just been a good thing to do to lessen our dependence on oil…It has drawn new customers to our company, companies who are as excited as we are about our ability to take back their old carpets and recycle them into new ones. [The same product] “has opened a door to some large corporate clients (some of whom had given their business to our competitors in the past).
That passage comes from Confessions of a Radical Industrialist by Ray Anderson, founder and chair of Interface, Inc., who described the “spear in the chest moment” that persuaded him to build a 100% sustainable company in one of the world’s least sustainable consumer industries. Anderson was talking about a now-famous brand of carpet that can be demanufactured and recycled to drastically reduce the environmental impact associated with conventional production.
The same business drivers apply to meetings. The industry carries a large environmental footprint that clients expect us to address, and we have the knowledge and resources to address it. Whether sustainability is still a competitive advantage for the convention centres that take the initiative, or simply the price of entry for all facilities, it’s about to begin bringing jobs and tax revenues to Ottawa.
Don’t let anyone convince you that the underlying principles are untried. As I put on my safety gear to begin the OCC tour, I imagined my dad looking over my shoulder. His 45-year career as a consulting engineer brought him to countless job sites, and his hardhat holds pride of place in my office.
Reuben specialized in heating and cooling systems, and dates his first serious attempt at energy conservation back to the 1950s. The OCC may be installing some newfangled components, but there’s nothing new in the idea that efficiency is smart and saves money. We’ve known for many decades how to reduce our energy, water, and waste. The only thing that has changed is the urgency of the effort.