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September 16, 2014

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Strip hotels garner LEED gold

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Ulf Buchholz

Eco-friendly resorts: Construction continues on the CityCenter on the Strip between Monte Carlo and Bellagio. Aria and Vdara were given the second-highest certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Aria and Vdara — hotels and convention space within CityCenter — were given the second highest certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The gold certification was based on standards set by the council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

The casino inside Aria was not included in the certification because it allows smoking. The casino will be on its own ventilation system and a displacement floor system, which pushes air up from the floor instead of from the ceiling, a first for the casino industry, said Katarina Tesarova, the senior project manager responsible for green certification at CityCenter.

CityCenter is a development of MGM Mirage and Infinity World Development Corp., a subsidiary of Dubai World.

But some say the certification is misleading and used as a marketing tool instead of putting employees’ health first.

“It’s smoking as usual,” said Stephanie Steinberg, chairwoman of Smoke-Free Gaming, a casino worker advocacy group. “There’s nothing green about the gray in secondhand smoke ... What they’re doing is creating an unhealthy work environment.”

There are prerequisites that buildings have to meet to reduce people’s exposure to secondhand smoke, said Ashley Katz, spokeswoman for the Green Building Council.

“While one of the options to achieve this credit is to prohibit smoking in the building, there is an option to prohibit smoking in the building except in designated smoking areas,” Katz said. “If they choose this option, smoking rooms must effectively contain, capture and remove tobacco smoke from the building and air quality must be monitored in the building to guarantee high levels of air quality.”

Tesarova said the air inside the casino will be of a higher standard than other casinos because of the ventilation technology inside Aria.

CityCenter has sought innovative means to reduce its environmental footprint, such as installing low-flow water faucets on a mass scale, separating its construction trash so that 94 percent of it is recycled by manufacturers, using low or no chemical products such as paint and carpets and having shades outside the hotels’ windows to reduce the sun’s glare and heat, she said.

“When you walk into CityCenter you don’t get the new building smell,” Tesarova said.

The company also built a natural gas plant for the development, and the hot exhaust created by the energy production will be used to heat water that guests use.

MGM Mirage energy chief Cindy Ortega said CityCenter was shooting for silver certification, but decided to go beyond those requirements to ensure that level was attained.

What resulted was gold certification.

“We overshot like all businesspeople,” she said, adding that Aria is now the world’s largest green building.

“This sets the standard of what can be done on a grand scale and a luxury scale.”

Aria received two certifications, one for its hotel and another for its convention area, spa and theater.

The company is still waiting on four more certifications, which they contracted out to another company to handle. Veer and Mandarin Oriental are expected to be the last ones to be certified, Ortega said.

Before Aria’s green certification, the Las Vegas Sand’s Palazzo was the largest green building, having attained silver certification last year.

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