Javits Green Roof a Hit for Groups Meeting in NYC

Its spectacular glass pyramid notwithstanding, New York's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center looks from the ground like a lot of other convention facilities in which you've probably attended meetings. There's more to the Javits Center than meets the eye, however. Above the humming escalators, tiled corridors, fluorescent lights, and carpeted ballrooms is the last thing you'd expect to find in this industrial slice of Manhattan: a countryside. Well, sort of. Although it's not entirely pastoral, the Javits Center's green roof is rural enough at least for the growing community of birds, bats, and bees that have taken sanctuary there since its debut in 2014 -- and for New York residents and visitors, who have taken to the roof in growing numbers this summer for an up-close-and-personal look at sustainability.

To discover what makes the roof so special -- both for the critters who live on it and for the meeting attendees who visit it -- Successful Meetings spoke with Javits Center Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Tony Sclafani, who calls the roof a "modern-day miracle on 34th Street."

Lots of buildings these days have green roofs. Why is the Javits Center's so special?

Our green roof is the second largest of its kind in the United States. And it's certainly the largest in New York. It was completed in 2014 as part of a $453 million renovation that was funded by a tax on hotel rooms in New York City. As part of the renovation, more than 6,000 bird-friendly glass panels were installed on the building's façade. The Javits Center was known as the No. 1 bird killer in New York City because birds used to fly into the building all the time. As a result of the new glass installation, however, bird collisions have decreased more than 90 percent. When we installed the green roof, the Javits Center actually became a bird sanctuary. Since 2014, 26 bird species have been identified on the green roof at various times, as well as five bat species and thousands of honeybees. We entered into a partnership with New York City Audubon to study the impact of the roof and they've helped by coming regularly to the building and studying the impact of the green roof on birds. We've seen multiple nests built by birds where they're laying eggs, and those eggs are hatching and new birds are being born. So it's a really fascinating comeback story in terms of nature at the Javits Center. We're really proud to play a part in this new ecosystem, and I think that's what really makes our green roof special.

Clearly, the green roof benefits New York's avian occupants. Does it also benefit the city's human denizens?

The green roof has been a tremendous benefit to the Javits Center in more ways than one. First of all, it can absorb up to 7 million gallons of stormwater a year because it's comprised of a low-lying rock plant called sedum that was grown in Syracuse, NY, and transported here for installation. The sedum turns green in the spring and summer and red and orange in the fall, and it absorbs rainfall to reduce our stormwater runoff. Second, the green roof is actually lighter than the original roof that was constructed. So from a weight perspective, it's actually better for the building. The green roof also insulates the building in the winter and cools it in the summer. The temperature difference between the green roof section and other concrete sections is significant; it's much cooler on the green roof. Finally, all of our sustainable upgrades since our renovation -- including the green roof -- have contributed to a 26 percent reduction in energy consumption at the Javits Center, and that translates into savings of millions of dollars a year.

Most of all, though, we're very proud to have this green roof because it is, in essence, a living laboratory where our employees, customers, and research partners can study and learn about the benefits of sustainability. That allows us to be integrated with our community in more ways than we've ever been before, and to play a role in improving the quality of life in that community. For us, that's probably the biggest benefit.

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