The Role Of Energy Efficiency In Las Vegas’s Hospitality Industry – Las Vegas: bright lights, a sustainable city Las Vegas has been working on 30 years of sustainability management under the leadership of Marco Velotta, an alumnus.
Tall solar panels stand in front of Las Vegas City Hall against a formidable foe. The effects of a warming climate and severe drought are more pronounced in a city built in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and the solar panels represent the rapid and focused shift Las Vegas made 15 years ago to make the city futuristic. The hard work paid off. In 2016, Las Vegas was certified as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold City by the US Green Building Council for its extensive implementation of sustainable building and operating practices. Despite rapid population growth over the past 15 years, the city has reduced its annual water use by 40 billion gallons and launched a new 30-year Master Plan in 2020 to sustainably manage the future of Las Vegas. Las Vegas urban planner and Geography alumnus Marco Velotta (B.S. Geography ’06, M.S. Land Use Planning ’08) has been at the forefront of the urban sustainability movement since 2008. He grew up in Las Vegas and witnessed the exponential growth of the city. , weathered the Great Recession and subsequently weathered unforeseen changes as a model city of sustainability. He’s well aware that the road ahead isn’t a straight line, and that’s a good thing since it’s Velotta’s job to draw the map.
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The Role Of Energy Efficiency In Las Vegas’s Hospitality Industry
Graduate Marco Velotta walks under the solar panels in front of Las Vegas City Hall, where he works as a city planner. (Jennifer Kent)
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“Where do you find a crystal ball to say with certainty that this is what the future will be?” Velotta asked. “We have been taking action on sustainability for over 15 years. We have been able to invest heavily in renewable energy projects and energy efficiency. Now, by 2050, we’re looking at another 300,000 people in Las Vegas alone and another million in the greater metro area. We can continue to build water-intensive single-family homes or develop transit-oriented developments. and mixed-use developments that do not use water but sustain population growth. There are several ways forward; It just decides which one is the best.”
“The crazy thing is, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles will all lose Lake Mead if we don’t get water flowing through the Hoover Dam.”
Water is number one on the list of urban conservation issues. Lake Mead, which holds water for southern Nevada, as well as Arizona, California, Mexico and several Native American tribes, is at its lowest level and continues to decline. In August, for the first time, the federal government mandated that Arizona, Mexico and Nevada reduce the amount of water they withdraw from man-made reservoirs as they are getting dangerously close to the dead reservoir that no longer flows through the Hoover Dam. essentially cutting off the Colorado River in the middle of the desert. The worst-planned Southern Nevada Water Authority broke ground in 2015 on a new $1.5 billion water pump to serve Southern Nevada. This pump was commissioned in April 2022, as was the intake valve for one of the two original water intakes. the pumps broke the surface and became inoperable. As of today, September 28, the lake’s water level is 1,045 feet above sea level. A second submerged, working original pump is only 172 feet away.
“The crazy thing is if we don’t get water flowing through the Hoover Dam, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles will all lose Lake Mead as a resource,” Velotta said. “Eighty percent of Lake Mead’s water is used for agriculture in the Imperial Valley and Arizona. There are seasons when we can’t get the products we’re used to. We have to ask, should we grow things in the Sonoran Desert? Should we ask that?”
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Image caption: This photo of Lake Mead taken on June 14, 2022, shows the last year’s data from 2000 to 2021, through June 2022, as declining water levels and droughts in the West continue to drain precious water. shows a sharp decrease during the period. resources. (Jennifer Kent)
Las Vegas continues to ask and answer similar tough questions about its water use. The city recycles 99 percent of its wastewater, which is considered non-potable water use. However, sources of water use such as landscape irrigation, water-based cooling systems, and evaporation from reservoirs account for 60% of total water use, most of which comes from single-family homes.
“As we reach out to residents, the water issue is a concern,” Velotta said. “We are considering rezoning for water-efficient high-density residential. It is also associated with affordable housing. Even in your city of Reno, we don’t have a lot of multi-family or even single-family housing – we don’t have many duplexes or triplexes. “We’re really limited when two-thirds of all homes are single-family homes that use water.”
There are favorable locations for water-efficient housing – what the Master Plan refers to as “mid-holes” – three- to four-story multi-family buildings in transit-friendly neighborhoods near the city. But it’s single-family housing that still uses much of the city’s water, and several conservation efforts have been directed at the sector. The strategy included increased restrictions on landscaping and water features, as well as incentives to switch to xeriscape fences. In 2021, the municipality mandated the removal of unused grass from public areas. These purely ornamental lawns, common in office parks, streets, and residential buildings, provide no recreational or environmental benefits, and are a pollutant to the city’s water supply. The piles on the lawn made national news just days before the town was once again in the spotlight when a human remains found in a barrel — a suspected homicide — was found at the bottom of Lake Mead.
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“We are very focused now because of the drought. We’re in the spotlight across the country,” Velotta said. “It’s what the city is doing now to limit water use along with population growth that will determine the future of Las Vegas.”
A map of Las Vegas shows most of the city’s southeast neighborhood covered in green, showing grass, turf, and tree cover. Las Vegas is working to ensure that by 2035, 85% of its population lives within 1/3 mile of cool-temperate green spaces such as parks and tree canopy by 2050. (Las Vegas Master Plan)
Water is not the only challenge. A city built in the middle of a desert must make a concerted effort to counter the urban heat island effect. Asphalt, concrete, and other components of urban infrastructure absorb and retain much more of the sun’s heat than natural landscapes, significantly increasing ambient air temperatures. Las Vegas has the most intense urban heat islands of any city in the country, 20 to 25 degrees hotter than the surrounding desert. One of the best strategies to counteract this effect is planting trees. The master plan includes a citywide goal of planting 60,000 drought-tolerant trees and 85% of the population living within 1/3 mile of a green space that provides cool temperatures, such as parks and tree canopy. 2050. Other tactics include painting roofs white (another conservation feature of the City Hall) and reducing the use of asphalt and concrete.
Strategies are bold for a reason. They work. Over the past 10 years, the city has reduced its annual water use by 2.25 billion gallons, and since 2000, it has halved its per capita water use. The city met its previous goal of planting 40,000 trees by 2020. But gaining public support for bold strategies can be a challenge. Rising water and temperatures are top concerns for Vegas residents, along with affordable housing, crime and access to public parks and open spaces. By inviting public input early in the planning process, Velotta and his colleagues at City Hall have been able to create consistency in everything they do while responding to community needs. Velotta is leading the East Las Vegas Nuestro Futuro Este de Las Vegas (Our Future East Las Vegas) project, which transforms a city-owned golf course that uses water into a mixed-use neighborhood that meets the Master Plan’s sustainability goals and a vibrant new neighborhood during development.
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“All these things come together here,” Velotta said. “We designed this course, designed by Pete Dye, for two thousand mixed-income, affordable single-family and multi-family homes, parks, water-efficient landscaping, drought-tolerant trees, community centers,
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