A view of Sands Expo and Convention Center, part of the meetings complex that achieved the first Level Two compliance for new green standards.

The meetings complex that includes Sands Expo and the Congress Center at The Venetian and the Palazzo Las Vegas was recently named the first venue in the world to achieve compliance of a Level Two certification to the ASTM/APEX Standard for a meeting venue.

By now, the industry is quite familiar with green standards for buildings like LEED Certification, but until last year there wasn’t a set of standards relating specifically to the meetings industry. Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC), the Convention Industry Council’s APEX Initiative, and ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) International came together first in 2007 to begin the creation of the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards, which were introduced in 2012.

“Originally when the certification first came out we knew about them just from being in the industry, then clients started asking,” said Ryan Green, sustainable events manager at Sands Expo, adding that after that, it was absolutely necessary to get involved.

“LEED was a great groundwork, but the APEX/ASTM Standards are current and relevant to our industry,” said Lisa Witherell, director of Convention Operations at Sands Expo, who added that the backing of GMIC as such a large player in green meetings really legitimized these standards for the meetings industry.

The ASTM/APEX Standards are divided into nine sectors as they relate to the meeting industry: accommodations, audio-visual, communication and marketing material, destinations, exhibits, food and beverage, meeting venue, on-site office, and transportation. The standards are measured in levels one-through-four. So far, four destinations have been designated as compliant with Level One certification to the destination standard. Three convention centers, including McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, have been designated as compliant with Level One of the standards, but Sands Expo, The Venetian and the Palazzo Las Vegas were the first to achieve compliance with the Level Two standard for any of the sectors.

“If a building is LEED certified, they can meet most of the requirements in Level One,” said Amy Spatrisano, principal of MeetGreen and co-founder of GMIC, who helped work on creating the standards.

The Level Two standard for a meeting venue includes achieving goals in eight impact areas such as communications, air quality, water usage, energy and waste. In order to achieve compliance with the Level Two standards, Sands Expo and The Venetian and The Palazzo had to increase some of their existing sustainability efforts, which were launched in 2011 with the Sands ECO 360° Meetings Program.

“We had a pretty extensive sustainability program before the certification process began, but there were some slight policy changes,” said Green. Sands needed to make sure that internal combustion engines didn’t run inside the hall and that the layout of events ensured that airflow was never blocked by any exhibits, contributing to the air quality impact area.

Sands Expo and The Venetian and The Palazzo achieved the performance criteria for waste through their comprehensive recycling program, which is the first front-of-house recycling station on the Las Vegas strip and also includes composting.

The venue also worked to go above and beyond the performance criteria for communications with its Green Meeting Concierge program.

“We meet with all of our customers well ahead of their program with a meeting tool checklist they can go through and decide what to introduce to their customers,” said Witherell. But the communication with the organizer doesn’t stop when the event is over.

“We also offer a post-show event summary that shows how the recycling rate, energy and water usage was affected during the event,” added Witherell.

She said that achieving compliance with the Level Two standard wasn’t so much a monetary investment, other than purchasing the requirements themselves for $41-$47 each or $149 for all eight that are currently published. Once the facility knew what the standards entailed, it upgraded some of the practices already in place and then spent significant time compiling the right information and submitting documentation, along with backup documentation, to iCompli.

Spatrisano wanted to stress that there are two sides to how the standard works: both the supplier and the planner must perform at a certain level in order to call a specific meeting green. If a supplier is performing at Level One and the planner isn’t, then the meeting isn’t performed to a Level One Standard.

“The ASTM/APEX Standards don’t deal with how a building is built, they only deal with how a building performs,” said Spatrisano. “In this case, they could deliver a meeting that’s compliant with the Level Two Standards.”

“My caution and concern is that you can put something in place once, but don’t have to use it every time,” she added. “In the case of Sands Expo and The Venetian and The Palazzo, I’ve worked with them and happen to know that they do an amazing job and they’re fabulous.”

Interviewed for this story: Ryan Green and Lisa Witherell, (714) 918-8231; Amy Spatrisano, (503) 252-5458