LEED Buildings and Sustainability in Sin City

Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada

“Sustainable” is not a word that comes to mind when thinking of Las Vegas. “Extravagant,” “Hot,” “Wasteful”- these are better suited words for the city of sin where huge casinos and the party lifestyle replace consciousness of the environment. But do not doubt this city; Las Vegas is making a turnaround. In recent years, efforts to reduce environmental impacts have sprouted up all over the valley by means of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings, proving that the party city does have a conscience.

Developed by the United States Green Building Council, the LEED program focuses on creating environmentally friendly, sustainable environments. The buildings who achieve LEED ratings reduce their impacts on the environment through use of natural light, energy efficient air conditioning and heating systems, sustainable and renewable construction practices and materials, water saving applications, and countless other sustainable options.

Buildings around Las Vegas that have achieved or strived to achieve different levels of LEED certification include the North Las Vegas City Hall and Civic Plaza, The Smith Center of Performing Arts, UNLV’s Science and Engineering Building and Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, the Palazzo and Venetian luxury hotel and casino resorts, Cashman Equipment Company, and Lyal Burkholder Middle School. Other LEED buildings around the valley include the buildings of Springs Preserve, the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center, the City of Henderson Heritage Aquatic Complex and Senior Center, and six buildings and hotels of City Center including Aria Hotel and Convention Center, Crystals Retail, Vdara Hotel, Mandarin Oriental, and Veer Towers. For a complete list of LEED buildings in Nevada and their certification levels, check out the United States’ Green Building Council list.

I chose this topic for my photo assignment because LEED represents my energy consciousness in a very important way. The built environment is the best place to focus on sustainable strategies because it encompasses many different aspects of environmental impact reduction practices. In addition, the majority of humans spend their time indoors and rely on buildings for shelter. LEED certification not only reduces environmental impacts but also provides many monetary advantages for those not so focused on the environmental benefits. According to the United States Green Building Council, “LEED-certified buildings are designed to lower operating costs and increase asset value, reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve energy and water, be healthier and safer for occupants, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, [and] qualify for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives.”

Before I could get to the buildings I chose for my photo assignment, I had to do some research on which buildings in the Las Vegas valley were LEED certified. Once this was accomplished, I drove around the city taking photographs of all the buildings. Fortunately, because I travel across town to get to work, none of the sites were too far out of the way. All of the photos for my assignment were taken with a Nikon Coolpix S4100. To see all of my photos, head to my Flickr account.

As Green Education Services states,

“Many current methods used in the building industry can be harmful to our planet, our communities, and even our health. Take action towards improving this system, by learning and implementing more sustainable, eco-friendly, and energy-efficient practices. Whether it’s developing improved waste management strategies, or spearheading the installation of a green roof, individuals of all skills and backgrounds can play an integral role in promoting and implementing this change.”

Everyone can do their little bit in the effort to reduce harmful environmental impacts. A little effort goes a long way, and it makes me proud to see the city of Las Vegas and its surrounding areas engage in sustainable practices.