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Vegas' GREEN building boom

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Vegas' GREEN building boom

Postby GreenRealty » Sat Nov 28, 2009 10:28 am

Vegas' GREEN building boom

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You've probably heard the phrase, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." But does that apply to more than hotel hi-jinks?

Las Vegas may be a popular escape from our day-to-day lives, but what happens in Vegas has an impact beyond the Strip.

Recently, my colleagues and I have been consulting with a number of developers in Vegas on how to cut down on waste and use fewer natural resources. The more I study the city, the more I appreciate the scale of the problem. From its opulent buffets to huge fountains, Las Vegas is all about extravagance.

The good news is that the desert winds may be changing. Water shortages and rising energy prices are fueling a green building boom in Sin City -- a boom that may soon challenge the city's wasteful foundations.

Putting Las Vegas's consumption in perspective

The first step to understanding that shift is to get a handle on just how much Las Vegas consumes. Take one not-so-small example:

Every day, 60 thousand pounds of shrimp are served up in Las Vegas's restaurants and famous buffets. That's more shrimp than is consumed by the rest of the Unites States combined -- a truly starling figure since (last time I checked) the city isn't anywhere near a major fishing port.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that all this shrimp is trucked or flown into the city, causing millions of barrels of oil to be burned.

The water problem

Of course, consumption doesn't end with shrimp. In 2001, Las Vegas used 230 gallons of water per person per day. Despite being in the middle of the desert, people in Las Vegas use significantly more water than people in less parched regions. Residents of Denver, for example, consumed just 159 gallons per person per day over the same period.

To make matters worse, Las Vegas is also the fastest growing metropolitan area in the nation, according to the 2000 census. With 40 million visitors a year and more people moving to the city each month, Las Vegas' water demand will soon outstrip its current supply, unless conservation measures are taken.

Cold champagne and hot spas

So is serious conservation possible? Clearly a city with an economy founded on escape and extravagance can't deny its visitors the luxurious experience they're all seeking or its growing number of residents the basic services they require.

Well, maybe they don't have to.

One of our informal mottos at RMI is "cold beer and hot showers." People don't care how their beers stay cold or what heats the water, as long as in the end their beers are cold and their showers are hot.

The same goes for the experience most people want from Las Vegas -- though instead of beers and showers, they might want champagne and spas.

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That thinking allows developers to start with a different premise -- one that can conserve water and other natural resources, while providing the same services that people expect when they show up.

A sustainable desert oasis

Can that work? MGM Mirage seems to think so. Its 76-acre CityCenter development on the Strip is aiming for a minimum of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Silver certification. That means it's dedicated to providing a high-end user experience in a more efficient way through its building designs.

And the Mirage isn't the only one; there are now over 30 registered LEED projects in the Las Vegas area.

Las Vegas is booming, but so is the movement towards a smarter way of doing things. Through efficiency and conservation, Las Vegas can provide the same luxuries most visitors expect while using less energy and resources.

by Allison Rutter Source: Rocky Mountain Institute.

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