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Green in the Desert

When Las Vegas was announced as the host city of HPAC Engineering's fourth annual Engineering Green Buildings (EGB) Conference and Expo, I imagine more than a few eyebrows were raised. After all, a place alternately known as "Sin City," the "Devil's Playground," "Neon City," and the "City That Never Sleeps" hardly springs to mind as a possible location for an event dedicated to improving energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, and sustainability. Admittedly, I, too, questioned the appropriateness of Las Vegas as a site for EGB when I joined the magazine in mid-April.

Then, I visited Las Vegas.

All it took was a little digging and the opportunity to talk to the right people for me to come away with the belief that "green"—as in energy-efficient, sustainable buildings—is taking hold there.

Las Vegas ranks 11th in the United States in green buildings per capita. Nearly 50 structures, including commercial offices, schools, heath-care facilities, and government buildings, are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design- (LEED-) registered. While that may not exactly make Las Vegas a mecca of green buildings, it is a start.

The $13 million Miley Achievement Center, for instance, is the first LEED project for the fast-growing Clark County School District, utilizing energy-efficient mechanical systems and a ground-loop geothermal system.

The Las Vegas Water District, meanwhile, is taking advantage of the area's annual average of 300 days of sunshine for a 3.1-mw distributedsolar-array project. The photovoltaic system will produce 5.3 million kwh of clean electricity without consuming water.

Even the city's always-booming hospitality and entertainment industry has realized that building green is smart business. The project garnering the most attention is the $7 billion, 18 million-sq-ft MGM City Center project. The city-within-a-city will feature a 3,000-room hotel and casino, four 2,500-unit residential towers, and 550,000 sq ft of retail, dining, and entertainment space. The complex will include up to 50 buildings sitting on about 66 acres. Big? Of course—this is Las Vegas after all. But did I mention the developers are aiming to achieve LEED Silver certification?

I hope you will join us at EGB 2007, which will be held Sept. 17 and 18 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. As always, stay tuned to HPAC Engineering and check for further details.

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