By Timothy Trefzer, USGBC
The Atlanta convention center has become a temporary medical space for COVID-19 patients.
Shortly after the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) was established by the Georgia General Assembly in 1971, its board of directors developed a mission and vision for the new organization, which now includes the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), Centennial Olympic Park and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. GWCC, the first state-owned convention center in the U.S., and the entire 220-acre downtown Atlanta campus, is now globally recognized as a top conventions, sports and entertainment destination.
However, it may be surprising to some that the GWCC mission statement is not only to serve as an economic engine for the state of Georgia, but also to enhance the quality of life for its citizens. It’s this last part that has resonated with our staff, clients and community as GWCC has transitioned to an alternative care facility in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Over the nearly 10 years I’ve been with the organization, I have emphasized environmental and social sustainability as a means to enhancing the lives of Georgians. The 4-million-square-foot GWCC became the largest LEED-certified convention center in the world when it achieved LEED Silver certification in 2014. We fought to improve that status and achieved LEED Gold certification in 2017 following a significant $28 million investment into energy and water saving technology and equipment that saw a reduction of utilities by more than 40%. Along with three beehives, 4,000 solar panels and an extensive waste diversion effort, the impact the GWCC has on the community ranges from local food and material donations to literacy and education partnerships and job training and development.
Now, as much of the hospitality industry has come to a standstill, GWCCA has embraced a new role facilitating the care and recovery of Georgia’s COVID-19 patients.
Many other convention centers and public assembly facilities have also become temporary hospitals during this pandemic. These venues not only benefit the events and guests they host, but they also serve the surrounding communities and environments in unique and unassuming ways. With 200 beds and a sizable medical staff to boot, GWCC is grateful for the opportunity to work with other state and federal entities to assist in Georgia’s recovery during this unprecedented time. Likewise, it will step up to future opportunities to support our great city and state for the benefit of its people.