In October, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (NOENMCC) received three prestigious awards: the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Community Leader Award for the South Central Region and two Love Your City Awards from LifeCity.
With 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space under one roof, NOENMCC is among the largest convention centers in the U.S. These new awards celebrate the facility’s commitment and achievements around sustainability and equity.
President and CEO Michael J. Sawaya said, “As much as we focus on delivering exceptional events for our clients, our convention center teams are also hard at work behind the scenes finding new ways to make our facility more sustainable and our organization more inclusive.”
Presented by the USGBC at its Louisiana FORWARD symposium on Oct. 26, the NOENMCC’s Community Leader Award recognized the convention center for being “an exceptional green building project that overcame significant obstacles.” These prestigious awards celebrate the projects, people, and partners working to create better buildings and better lives for the people in their local communities.
Chosen from a group of 12 finalists in the South Central Region—encompassing Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas—the NOENMCC won the USGBC 2023 “Rise to the Challenge” Community Leader Award for its ongoing commitment to sustainability. From reducing the facility’s energy and water usage to increasing recycling efforts and green infrastructure, the NOENMCC is working hard to minimize its carbon footprint and advocate for the environmental health of New Orleans.
Recent improvements include overhauling the facility’s HVAC and lighting systems, installing electric vehicle charging stations, and replacing 1.9 million square feet of traditional roofing with a new, energy-efficient roofing system. In 2022, the NOENMCC earned a gold-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the USGBC, making it the largest LEED-certified project in Louisiana and the first convention center in the world to be awarded initial certification under LEED v4.1 O+M.
“While I am thrilled to accept this award from the USGBC, the credit for the real work behind our extensive progress around sustainability goes to the dedicated and talented people at the convention center, starting with our Director of Sustainability Linda Baynham,” said Chief Operating Officer Adam J. Straight. “It takes all of us—from leadership down to every team member—to get the resources, momentum, and follow-through we need to make big changes that reduce our environmental impact.”
Separately, the NOENMCC received two accolades in October from LifeCity, an initiative that supports responsible economic development and helps organizations manage, track, report, and market their impact.
At an awards gala on Oct. 19, LifeCity presented the NOENMCC with a Love Your City Award for Energy in recognition of its commitment to sustainability, and another Love Your City Award for Equity, highlighting the convention center’s increasing efforts to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices and policies.
In naming Rocsean Spencer its chief diversity officer (CDO) earlier this year, the NOENMCC became the first convention center in the nation to establish the position of CDO. Spencer and her team work to support the convention center’s DEI goals and directives designed to mitigate bias, increase equitable outcomes, and foster respect and inclusion.
Another testament to its commitment to equity, the NOENMCC’s Small and Emerging Business (SEB) Program creates and implements initiatives designed to help promote diverse and small businesses’ access to convention center opportunities. Since the SEB program launched in 2019, 1,552 certified vendors have registered, and more than $52 million in contracts has been awarded to local SEBs and disadvantaged business enterprises.