AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami earns LEED Gold recertification.

Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena was recently awarded LEED Gold recertification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Over the past five years, the facility has added to the USGBC’s required sustainable principles and practices for its initial LEED Silver designation to become the first arena in the world to achieve LEED Gold recertification.

At press time, the USGBC had recertified four other public assembly venues, including the Colorado Convention Center, Denver; Oregon Convention Center, Portland, and Los Angeles Convention Center.

The home of the NBA’s Miami Heat secured its first LEED for Existing Buildings certification in 2009, 10 years after it was built.

“The recertification process isn’t demanding, since we didn’t have to do any major retrofits or renovations, just provide paperwork stating that we are continuing to meet the LEED certification standards,” said Jackie Ventura, operations and sustainability coordinator, Facilities & Operations, for the arena.

The facility undertook a few minor projects prior to becoming recertified, including installing LED lights and replacing parking lights with induction lighting, which utilize 55 percent less energy.

“The cost for recertification was mainly the amount of time put in by myself, the director of operations and operations manager, including minimal registration and review fees required by the USGBC,” Ventura said. “If we weren’t LEED certified, we’d be spending a lot more money on utilities than we are now.”

The facility spent $15,000 on the certification and another $1,000 on the appeal. 

LEED’s existing building tool is broken down into two types of credits, including one based on real performance tracking and another based on implementation of USGBC’s policies.

“For the initial certification, we track energy, water and waste, but also put green policies in place to make sure what’s being tracked is accomplished according to certification rules,” said Brendan Owens, vice president, LEED Technical Development, for USGBC. “LEED recertification tracks and documents the outcome of sustainable features and documents that waste management strategies are successful. What we’re doing here is verifying that the building is continuing to perform as it did during the initial certification.”

LEED recertification is required every five years at a minimum, although some facilities recertify on an annual basis.

“Many times, over the course of the recertification period, project teams will do more than is required and the score will go up,” Owens said. “Even though they’re not required to improve the initial score, some venues will take additional steps to increase the certification level, like AmericanAirlines Arena.”

In order to recertify, the venue documents that it is LEED compliant. The USGBC then reviews the information.

“There is a direct cost facilities pay for this review that is based on the square footage of the project,” said Rhiannon Jacobsen, vice president of strategic relationships. “Oftentimes, there are additional costs to document the requirements and money is invested to make sure the building is compliant. This investment typically has a significant payback, such as decreased utility bills or lowered waste hauling costs.”

The 19,600-seat venue’s sustainable maintenance, energy efficiency and conservation practices include chemical-free exterior maintenance; a central location to encourage mass transit use; efficient plumbing fixtures that have resulted in reducing water consumption by almost 17 percent and irrigation decreases of more than 77 percent; diverting almost 331,000 pounds of waste from landfills; green cleaning purchases; sustainable purchasing of consumables, such as office supplies; using more than 26 percent less energy per square foot than other public assembly facilities; installing a solar reflective material on the roof to reduce cooling needs; and providing underground parking that alleviates ambient temperatures in urban areas.

The facility invested just under $60,000 to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates and carbon offsets from Bonneville Environmental Foundation to offset 75 percent of the electrical consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. 

“The LEED certification allows us to approach sponsors with green messages or create sponsorships with businesses that are part of the green movement,” said Lorrie-Ann Diaz, AmericanAirlines Arena’s senior director of business communications. “This has proven to be successful for us in the last five years.”

Waste Management remains a sponsor of the arena’s green initiatives.

“People traditionally associate the green movement with the West Coast and Pacific Northwest, so it’s not lost on us that a Miami venue has been awarded recertification,” Ventura said. “We’re trying to set an example for our community and bring the East Coast up to par.”

Interviewed for this article: Rhiannon Jacobsen, (202) 828-7422; Brendan Owens, (202) 828-1153; Jackie Ventura, (786) 777-1125