Conference center integrates green features, technology to reduce environmental footprint
by Brande Poulnot
Sep 19, 2010 | 1964 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The 44,000-square-foot Clarence Brown Conference Center located at 5450 Ga. 20 in Cartersville was constructed within Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design standards and is qualified for silver-level certification. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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One thing stands out about the Clarence Brown Conference Center -- one of the community's newest structures at 5450 Ga. 20 in Cartersville -- its technological amenities and how they are seamlessly integrated into the green building.

The 44,000-square-foot facility funded with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars approved by voters in 2008 is expected to draw 70,000 patrons and $10,000,000 in expenditures to the city and county during its first year, including at least a 10-percent increase in local hotel occupancy rates. The spending could generate $400,000 in local tax revenues and an additional $100,000 in state sales tax.

Economically, the center will help Bartow County and Cartersville capture business and retain dollars spent in connection with that activity. Ellen Archer, executive director of the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau, cited an example -- a local large corporation will host its holiday party at the conference center, which will bring revenue to local caterers.

"We will catch business that would otherwise go to Atlanta, the Gwinnett Center, the Classic Center -- if [patrons] wanted to be outside the perimeter of downtown Atlanta. While there are capabilities of the video conferencing -- they're capable of it across the street at Georgia Highlands -- you can't rent those facilities. There are interactive white boards in the schools but you can't have a meeting. You can't have a paperless meeting outside of metro Atlanta. You can in Cartersville," Archer said. "You can e-mail your presentation. You don't even need to bring your laptop. We are positioned to support executive-level corporate needs, large venues."

The Clarence Brown Conference Center, named in honor of Bartow's current commissioner, could accommodate more than 2,000 people in 15 rental spaces at one time and contains several meeting areas -- nearly 13,000 square feet of divisible space in the Etowah Ballroom, which has audio conferencing capabilities and four large-format presentation screens; Carter Hall, a 300-seat auditorium with audio conferencing and audio-visual presentation support; six fixed-wall classrooms and a 3,000-square-foot multipurpose hall that divides into three spaces, each of which is equipped with a fully interactive smart board; and the board room, which offers video conferencing with space for 30 people.

The room with a 20-seat board table containing data and electrical outlets supports executive-level meetings in a high-touch, secure environment, according to a conference center press release. It also contains a smart board capable of archiving records and accommodating paperless meetings.

Carlos Riviera of United Technology Service, the center's systems integrator, said the building's audio-visual, video, voice and information technology capabilities are integrated into each room, many of which can be broken into smaller rooms with air walls to get the maximum use of the space.

"What's happening in the world, whether it's public meetings or corporate meetings, is this movement toward the ability to completely collaborate. In the technology world, there's this whole unification occurring, not just with IT, voice and video, but also with the building," Riviera said. "It's the way they go about doing their day-to-day business with smart technology integrated in a well-designed and built room. It allows them to do what they're trying to and focus on what they're trying to do within these rooms."

In addition to cutting-edge technology to support an array of functions, the green facility was planned in accordance with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, guidelines for environmentally responsible construction. They measure building sustainability in five design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. In addition to reducing energy consumption and saving money, the design reduces the overall negative environmental impact of the structure's existence and provides a healthy indoor environment for occupants, according to informational signs posted at the center.

The technology and green aspects of the building go hand in hand, Archer said.

"You can have face time with the capabilities in this building with people across the globe without the carbon footprint that would be generated by [transporting] yourself and your group. ... [Those] that would have to fly to a destination for a face to face with someone don't have to do that," she added. "That's the green -- those emissions aren't going into the atmosphere that would have and you get to go home that night."

Inside the facility, the lithocrete flooring is made from recycled glass, which is heat and mildew resistant and requires no sealing or waxing, conserving electricity, water and muscle.

Archer said the facility, which contains a welcome center and amphitheater, was constructed with materials that, if possible, were produced within 100 miles of Cartersville, reducing carbon emissions resulting from the transportation of those components.

"That goes back into the economics of the thing," she added. "We spent locally and as much as possible within Bartow County, but then it affects the Georgia economy and your and my taxes, basically, because 90 percent of everything was homegrown basically."

Manufactured within 50 miles of the conference center's site, the cradle-to-cradle carpeting also is made from recycled materials.

Event goers also have an opportunity to recycle with four bins collecting various materials at each garbage collection station in the conference center. The well-being of its patrons also is important.

Citing that people need natural light during the day for optimal emotional comfort and cognitive functioning, a large amount of natural light is available in the building through windows that prevent solar energy, resulting in 20 percent less heat than with traditional windows.

To further promote a healthy indoor environment, the facility provides fresh air and is finished with materials that emit low volatile organic compounds levels. It also conserves 44 percent of the water that would have been used with traditional plumbing apparatuses through the use of water-efficient plumbing fixtures.

Restrooms are stocked with recycled paper products, and sensors control lights and hand dryers. In addition to promoting the reuse of materials, the center will use 30 to 40 percent less electricity due to its green design and construction, Archer said.

Public open house, dedication ceremony set for Oct. 10

Conference center staff are gearing up to host the facility's first event Wednesday and marketers already have a slew of other happenings on the books, including trade shows, expos, seminars, wedding receptions and other social events, such as two local high school proms, but the public will get its first look at an open house set for Oct. 10.

Archer said the open house will have a patriotic theme with the dedication service beginning at 2 p.m. and spanning about 30 minutes. Locals who want to take a peek will be treated to refreshments, vocal and musical performances, and tours with volunteer guides pointing out green features of the building. The open house will wrap up at 5 p.m.