Strawberry Fields in New York

Date: 25/01/2024


The Javits Center in New York is a remarkable place, which has been transformed from a black box into a crystal palace and is now leading the way when it comes to being a truly sustainable conference center. Some remarkable initiatives were taken, resulting in tangible and sometimes surprising outcomes. 

It is not something you would expect in the heart of New York, next to the Hudson River: a strawberry field. The rooftop garden of the Javits Center offers apples, pears, strawberries, a wide variety of herbs and vegetables and … a great view. The farming team take great pride in their job and explain that the choice of crops and even the timing of harvesting is carefully planned in close collaboration with the catering team and goes to the level of the size of tomatoes needed. Any leftovers are either being frozen for future use or distributed to social organizations.  

The garden – which spans 6,75 acres – is one of the many initiatives taken by the Javits Center to become more sustainable. Another one – visible and not visible at the same time – is the bird-friendly glass used during the revamp of the venue. Just in case you’re wondering: bird-friendly glass has little dots in it, making sure the birds see it as a barrier. For a massive structure like the Javits Center, with lots of glass, the impact of the investment is substantial: not only has the number of “casualties” plummeted, but the center has now become a habitat of 35 bird species.  

The attention for our feathered friends is also included in a new initiative which is currently in R&D phase: the implementation of wind energy. The plan is to install small wind-capture installations on the roof of the venue, in order to further diversify energy sourcing (next to the solar panels already in place). The mills will be slowly turning and will stop the moment something hits them. Small but telling detail: to optimize energy generation, the mills will be installed on top of the exhaust pipes of the air conditioning, making sure that all opportunities to generate energy are used. 

Both the generation and use of energy are indeed major attention point for the Javits Center, also because it happens that the venue is requested to reduce energy consumption to compensate for energy usage by other organizations as part of a city-wide energy balancing exercise. That is why 35 MW of battery storage will be installed by the end of 2024, providing the venue with more than 2 gigawatt hours per year of renewable energy.  

At the end, becoming sustainable is however a team effort, requiring all parties involved to support the objectives. One area where this becomes very clear is waste management and more specifically the sorting and collection of largest recycling waste streams such as cardboard. A big effort was made on several levels, from employee training and requiring a waste management plan from event producers to investing in specific balers. Similar to the people in charge of the garden roof, the team involved in collecting cardboard take pride in their job and go the extra mile to make sure as much cardboard as possible is recycled. And similar to the garden, the results booked are impressive.  

It is both inspiring and energizing to walk through the venue and to be given insights into the thinking behind the efforts made to make the center as sustainable as possible. Both the CEO and President, Alan Steel, and Yashi Dadhich, Director of Energy and Sustainability are generous with their time and in sharing their stories. That is why AIPC will invite them to the Operational Excellence Summit in November and also have them involved in our other educational programmes – it is by sharing stories like these that we make progress as a community.  

Sven Bossu, CEO AIPC 

PS: The full Javits Center Action Plan can be found here: 

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