In the highly competitive Business Events market, hundreds of cities around the world are vying to attract global attention and a larger slice of the meetings market. Melbourne, one of the World’s Most Livable Cities – according to The Economist – has found a way to not only be noticed, but to set a global benchmark. Responding to the international call for sustainability, the Australian city has opened the ‘greenest’ convention center in the world, described in superlatives everywhere for its architectural design, cutting-edge technologies and comprehensive ‘Earth-friendly’ services.
Opened in June 2009 and integrated with the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, the Melbourne Convention Centre (MCC) is the first convention center to earn a ‘6-Star, Green-Star’ environmental rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. To put that rating in perspective, it’s higher even than the Platinum LEED certification, the highest level recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council.
“The Victorian government set out to raise the bar another notch, to build a center that defied all earlier definitions of green,” says Leigh Harry, the chief executive of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), of which the convention center is now a part. “We’re confident we have achieved that goal.”
NH Architecture and Woods Bagot designed the MCC to surpass existing centers when it came to environmental sustainability and innovation. The wood veneer paneling used throughout the facility comes from sustainable timber. The building’s mechanics are no less cutting-edge, the result of years of planning, research and, in some cases, pure invention.
- A displacement ventilation system that provides excellent air change effectiveness and high indoor air quality at low energy consumption.
- Waste water runs through a black water treatment plant (the first privately funded one in a public building in Australia), reducing water consumption by 50 per cent.
- Forty per cent of the center’s hot water and heat requirements come from solar systems.
- Chefs use waterless woks and biodegradable cornstarch cutlery for offsite services, as well as sourcing all food and wine from local, sustainable, or organic farmers and Victorian vineyards to ensure guests get the freshest, best quality ingredients.
“We have proved once and for all that sustainable practices aren’t just for private homes and small eco-lodges,” continues Leigh. “They can also be applied to a building capable of holding events from 10 to 10,000 people.”
But the MCC isn’t just shaking up the building world. It’s already showing the convention and exhibition industry what is possible. In addition to its 32 meeting rooms, Grand Banquet Room and foyer for 8400 guests, a main feature of the center is the Plenary. This space can stand alone as a 5000-seat auditorium or, by activating two moving walls, can be reconfigured into three self-contained, acoustically separate auditoriums. Another innovation, self-prompting ‘smart lecterns’ that are monitored in-house via centralized or satellite control rooms, provide event organizers and guest speakers with the ability to manage events from one location and take control of the technology within the room.
If the goal was to attract the eyes of the world to Melbourne, then the efforts have paid off handsomely. Already the MCC has attracted significant business to the city with the center’s marketing partners, Melbourne Convention + Visitors Bureau (MCVB) securing 51 major international conventions for the Melbourne Convention Centre, bringing more than 100,000 delegates to Melbourne and Victoria, injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy.
In terms of official recognition, the MCC has already won numerous awards including the coveted IMEX Green Meetings Industry Council Award 2009 (global recognition for commitment to environmental sustainability in the events industry). In July, the center picked up the Banksia Foundation Built Environment Award 2009 (the most prestigious environmental award in Australia). It’s also the only convention and exhibition centre in Australia with both Green Globe and Waste Wise accreditation and the first convention center in the country to be awarded the AIPC (International Association of Congress Centres) Quality Standards Certification.
The MCC is just a part of a much larger Melbourne renaissance. It’s the glittering centerpiece of the AUD$1.4 billion South Wharf development, a riverfront precinct that is also home to a retail and dining promenade and the brand new deluxe Hilton Melbourne South Wharf Hotel. The MCC and adjacent Melbourne Exhibition Centre make up Australia’s largest Business Events facility.