George R. Brown Convention Center Scores LEED Gold with TD Support

How often does a 35-year-old building achieve LEED Gold certification? You tell us, but we’d say given the years of planning, abundance of labor hours and passion for sustainability required to achieve such a milestone, it’s something to celebrate.

Houston First Corporation is doing just that with its recent announcement of the George R. Brown Convention Center’s extraordinary LEED Gold achievement. TDIndustries is proud of our 19-plus years of Service and Facilities support throughout their journey.

"Our industry-leading entertainment and convention venues are constantly evolving to exceed expectation, and this latest accolade further solidifies our commitment to healthy and sustainable practices," said Houston First Corp. President and CEO Michael Heckman in a recent press release. "We are fortunate to have partners like Levy Restaurants and TDIndustries who work alongside us providing support and assistance so that we continue making improvements that protect and benefit our community, and our future."

TD’s Service Sales Manager TJ Shiflet says TD has a team working with Houston First, and many are assigned to George R. Brown Convention Center. "George R. Brown has been working for a long time to be the most efficient, innovative convention center around," he says. "They’ve definitely made a lot of changes and invested resources to ensure their equipment operates optimally for the best convention experience."

Innovative Mechanical Updates

While mechanical updates are only a part of what it takes to get LEED Gold, Shiflet highlighted a few major TD projects that are eye-openers for what’s possible in an older building.

IMG_5166"About seven years ago, we helped them convert 20- or 30-year-old chillers to 6,000 tons worth of machines that are on variable speed drives," Shiflet says. "They’re all VFD chillers, meaning they can turn down to 120 tons or up to 1,200 tons, depending on demand."

TD also added BrightBlue™ smart building analytics to monitor the center’s central plant. The submetering and data analysis platform monitors all the tonnage and energy usage. The in-depth data enables TD’s Service technicians to understand where issues in the system are affecting plant efficiency so they can be resolved quickly.

Another efficiency add-on is CO2 monitoring for the Building Automation System that regulates the outside air going into the building to help reduce the amount of cooling needed for the outside air. As it needs cooling, it ramps up, so no energy is wasted to maintain comfort levels. "It cycles on and off at the outside air handler to help energy savings," Shiflet says.

"We are excited to be a LEED Gold building and look forward to continuing to improve our operations year-over-year," said John Gonzalez, Senior Vice President of Operations and General Manager, Houston First Corporation and George R. Brown Convention Center. Analisa Terrell, Manager of Sustainability and Administration, leads our LEED Focus Team, and notes that TD’s assistance with energy conservation and indoor air quality improvement was essential.

Indoor Air Quality

As the COVID threat increased throughout 2020 and 2021, convention centers struggled with cancellations and postponements amid health concerns. The importance of indoor air quality (IAQ) has never been more apparent than in recent years in the events industry.

"During COVID, we had our Controls team come out and program a button that will turn on all outside air units to full speed and open up all the dampers. It turns on everything and operates to basically purge the George R. Brown building to help put in fresh air and push out the old air," Shiflet says. "It’s not only energy efficient but also a health benefit."

The TD team tests for IAQ bi-annually. With a dynamic 1.8 million sq. ft. building, activity varies every day. One day there may be 200 people moving in for an event, and the next day 40,000 or more. "It’s a complex building," Shiflet says. "That makes IAQ and efficiency even more of a priority."

In fact, as George R. Brown advertised the innovative feature, convention customers specifically requested that such a "purge" happen during intermissions or breaks in gatherings, noting that one reason they chose the George R. Brown was because they could reassure guests about the indoor air quality.

"It helps clear the air and bring clean air in," Shiflet says. "It’s definitely something to consider for other venues such as a sports complex or anywhere crowds gather."

One Project at a Time

The George R. Brown Convention Center achieved LEED Silver in 2011 and recertification in 2017 and was evaluated for this year’s certification in areas including energy conservation, waste reduction, indoor air quality improvement and water conservation.

Today’s version of LEED, LEED v4.1, raises the bar on building standards, and the LEED rating system recognizes buildings that excel in sustainability through construction, design and operation practices that improve human health and conserve natural resources.

"Transforming our buildings and spaces happens one project at a time. The George R. Brown Convention Center understands the value of LEED and has shown extraordinary leadership in reshaping the market," U.S. Green Building Council President and CEO Peter Templeton said in the press release. "The success of LEED is due to the partnership and support of those committed to advancing green buildings and sustainability. Each new LEED certification brings us one step closer to revolutionizing the spaces where we live, learn, work, and play."

For additional details, read TD’s energy management case study.

Need support with IAQ, energy efficiency or HVAC retrofits for your buildings or campus? Contact our experienced advisers at 800-864-7717 to talk about your building’s needs.