CityCenter’s green features meet the gold standard

As bartender Michelle Dell-Colli is fitted for her new uniform, she appears ready to burst at the seams, not because it’s too tight but, rather, from the excitement of working in an environmentally progressive enterprise.

“When the Mirage opened, it set the pace for luxury and great service,” said Dell-Colli, a former employee there who starts work Dec. 16 at Aria Resort & Casino. “CityCenter showcases a green development.”

All four of the buildings scheduled to open in December -- Aria, Crystals, Mandarin Oriental and Vdara -- have earned the vaunted LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It takes far more effort than merely switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs or putting recycling baskets in guest rooms; certification requires meeting a comprehensive list of green standards, including design innovation, energy conservation, water efficiency and use of sustainable construction materials.

CityCenter boasts several features that impressed the third-party accreditors: an on-site, natural gas-fired power plant; a fleet of 26 CNG-powered limos; and an irrigation system that turns on only when the moisture level in the soil hits a certain point.

Even the fabric used to make about 10,000 uniforms, including Dell-Colli’s, is recycled.

Among several firsts is an air-conditioning system that not only cools Aria’s casino but also helps clear the smoke. The vents are in the bases of the slot machines.

“You don’t have to push [the cold air] down through the mass of air that is just below the ceiling,” said Katarina Tesarova, a senior project manager in the energy and environmental services division for MGM Mirage, CityCenter’s parent company. “As the air warms up and it rises, it takes with it all the contaminants: smoke, sneezes, you name it. It takes it up to the ceiling, where it’s exhausted.”

Aria’s system is unique -- “There’s nothing you could buy off the shelf,” Tesarova noted -- so it had to be custom-designed and built.

With a capacity of 8.5 megawatts, CityCenter’s power plant is relatively tiny; the proposed Canyon Power Plant in Anaheim would generate 200 megawatts. But producing power where it’s used prevents the loss of electricity along transmission lines. And recaptured heat from the plant will provide all the hot water for the entire development.

CityCenter’s electric bill should average 30% less than it would have without the green components, Tesarova said.

“It is equal to taking about 8,800 homes off the grid,” she said. And that’s nothing to sneeze at, even though Aria’s ventilation system would drive those droplets away.