Vancouver Convention Centre LEEDs the Way with Dan Lee

June 25, 2015

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John Shegerian: Welcome back to Green Is Good. This is the ISRI edition of Green Is Good and we’re here in beautiful downtown Vancouver at the Vancouver Convention Centre. And speaking of the beautiful Vancouver Convention Centre we are so excited to have with us today Dan Lee. He is the Director of Facilities Management of the Vancouver Convention Centre. Welcome to Green Is Good, Dan. Dan Lee: Thanks, John. We are really excited to have you guys and ISRI here in our beautiful city. I think you’re going to have a wonderful time here. John Shegerian: Well, we are. The place is just gorgeous. This is one of the most beautiful facilities we’ve ever been and broadcasted from or I have ever been in my whole life. And for our listeners our there, to learn more about the Vancouver Convention Centre, you can go to, and of course, to learn more about ISRI, you can go to Dan, before we get talking about this beautiful facility we’re sitting in that you are the Facilities Manager of, can you tell us a little bit about Dan Lee? Talk a little bit about your story and your life leading up to this very important position you have here in downtown Vancouver. Dan Lee: John, that’s a great question. I’ve always been involved in sustainability and energy management in my entire career. I’m a father of two. They’re always recycling. And Vancouver has always been a leader in that field in terms of sustainability. There is the Vancouver 2020 Greenest City initiative as well. For me, sustainability is really important for our future generations, and it’s something I’m really happy to be a part of at the Vancouver Convention Centre, because we can play a very influential role in that. John Shegerian: Did you grow up in a very green household? Did you grow up here in Vancouver? Dan Lee: Yeah, I grew up in Vancouver. John Shegerian: So was it you were inspired by the city, by your mom and dad or something happened in your education process to get you so into sustainability and green management? Dan Lee: Yeah, my parents have always been my role models, and they’ve always taught me about recycling. And my wife and kids, they’re always reminding me about that. The city separates everything in terms of recycling. And sustainability is something that everywhere you go in the streets of Vancouver you hear about “the green city, the green city.” It’s just a movement that is just becoming bigger than what we expected it to be. John Shegerian: It’s not only a green city – I’ve got to tell you something, Dan – it’s truly one of the cleanest, most gorgeous cities in the world. It’s world class. Dan Lee: Yeah. It’s very world class. There is that balance of work and having a good life here. We take that very seriously in terms of we want this to be a world-class city, and we want to do that by leading and showing the world that it can be done. John Shegerian: We’re sitting here in the Vancouver Convention Centre, the West Wing so to speak. Talk a little bit about this beautiful West Wing that we’re sitting in. When did it open up? And when did this expansion happen? Dan Lee: Well, John, this opened up in April, 2009, right before the Vancouver 2012 Winter Olympics, and we hosted the International Broadcast Centre from here. With the opening of our west building, it basically tripled our capacity. John Shegerian: Wow. Dan Lee: To host conventions and events. And with the Olympics here at our doorstep, it really put us on the map in terms of what this city can do to host some of the world’s best events, and we are very proud of that. John Shegerian: By having more capacity as the Director of Facilities Management here does that open up then the possibilities to almost host any type of convention? You no longer are precluded from conventions due to size issues? Dan Lee: Yeah. We had our convention centre in the east building over there and it was a very great part of our history. That’s where we started with the Expo ’86 – if any of our listeners remember around that time. John Shegerian: Right. Dan Lee: But we felt there was the need to expand, because we were losing convention dollars in terms of the economy. Our mandate is to generate economic activity, and we just weren’t getting a lot of that. We weren’t in that segment. But with the opening of the west building, it really tripled our capacity and we can host the world as you’ve seen with the Winter Olympics, with ISRI here, and we’re ready to take on anything. John Shegerian: Well, you’re the Director of Facilities Management. What does that really mean? How wide is your umbrella in terms of your role? Dan Lee: Well, in terms of some of the primary responsibilities I’m responsible for, some of them are facilities operations, facilities planning and sustainability. Operations – we make sure that we operate the building so that everyone who comes here enjoys a great experience. Planning – this is such an iconic facility for everyone, for our community, for our industry that we have to make sure that it remains that way and inspires. So there is a lot of planning that goes on behind the scenes as well. And sustainability is something that I am really proud of. It’s just something we have to do. And I’m a numbers guy. When numbers start adding up, it makes sense. John Shegerian: You know one of the things when I was reading about this beautiful facility, I think the terminology I read was “the Vancouver Convention Centre is LEEDing the way.” Can you share little bit with our listeners and our audience out there what LEED means and what that means not only on a macro level, on a micro level here at the Vancouver Convention Centre, what it means to you and what you have done here? Dan Lee: Yeah. LEED is the highest certification you can get from the Green Building Council. We’re certified LEED Platinum, and what that is is it’s specifically to the building. For us, it’s not just about the building. LEED, being at the highest level possible, it’s a philosophy that we have embraced in our organization. Not just what the building can do but what our staff can do with the events that happen here in terms of working with the planners. We take that to the next step in terms of opening it up for dialogue and inspiring. That’s what LEED is about for us. It’s about, yes, there is a technology behind it, but it is how people embrace that and how they take that sustainability movement and make it something bigger for future generations. John Shegerian: So you’re Platinum Level. The highest level. Dan Lee: Yes. We are the first convention centre in the world to have that LEED Platinum designation. John Shegerian: The first. Dan Lee: Yes. John Shegerian: So you truly are LEEDing the way. Dan Lee: We are LEEDing the way. John Shegerian: I love it. Dan Lee: In every way. John Shegerian: What year did you start working for the Convention Centre as a whole? Dan Lee: I started here about two years ago. John Shegerian: So you started two years ago. Talk a little bit about the planning in terms of the design and planning to be a LEED Platinum just doesn’t happen. How did you have to go about the facility design and planning and then building process to attain that Platinum status? Dan Lee: Well, there are many considerations to get LEED Platinum. It’s not that easy. You have to look at things such as recycled materials, renewable processes, the recycling programs. There are so many things involved in it. The construction – your construction materials have to be selected carefully. It’s a very rigorous process and it’s not something that is easily achievable. You need to be audited. You need to do so many things to prove. But you know what? When it happened, we were thrilled. The community was thrilled. As an organization, we’re just happy that we can lead the way. John Shegerian: To be the first LEED facility in terms of a convention centre in the world, I mean, that is amazing. Do other directors now come here and try to learn from you how to attain that kind of status or how to at least get LEED certified? Dan Lee: Well, the convention and event business is a very close group. We do have dialogue with other convention centres and we help each other out where possible. John Shegerian: Got you. Dan Lee: There are great things that we do, but then there are many great things that other convention centres do. And that’s what it’s all about is sharing. John Shegerian: So you’re sharing best practices all the time. Dan Lee: Yeah. John Shegerian: Talk a little bit about sustainability. If you and I ran into each other at an elevator today and I asked you what you did and I said “give me your elevator pitch on sustainability at the Convention Centre,” what are the top-of-mind issues that you are most excited about with regards to sustainability here at the beautiful Vancouver Convention Centre? Dan Lee: Well, you know some of the issues that we see here in terms of sustainability are just – sustainability is a way to inspire people. Inspiring and setting it up for the next generation. As a father of two, I want to make sure that when I do anything that I take my kids into consideration, that we give them a world we can be proud of not a world where they say “Oh, my parents did this.” And you know, it’s great to see in the educational systems now, that’s one thing I love to see, is education is taking a lead in terms of sustainability early on in the early stages where kids nowadays growing up, sustainability is going to be a norm for this current and next generation. It’s fantastic to see because it is the normal thing to do. If you are not doing or pitching sustainability nowadays, it’s “Oh, are we doing something wrong?” And it’s a great thing to see. John Shegerian: That’s true. For our listeners and our audience out that just joined us, we are so honored to have with us today, Dan Lee. He is the Director of Facilities Management here at the Vancouver Convention Centre. We’re sitting in the West Wing, and as far as my eye can see, that’s how big this gorgeous facility is and it is meticulously maintained. It’s so gorgeous. We are so honored to be here. To learn more about the Vancouver Convention Centre – and it is LEEDing the way; it is the first Platinum LEED-certified convention center in the world – go to This is the ISRI edition of Green Is Good, and to learn more about ISRI – the great Institute of Scrap and Recycling – go to Let’s go back to sustainability. I read about your six-acre living roof. Not living room, living roof. What is a six-acre living roof? Dan Lee: Well, it’s one of our best examples of our commitment to the environment, John. As you said, it’s a six-acre living roof. We have four beehives up there that can house up to 60,000 European bees. John Shegerian: Wow. Dan Lee: And it creates a habitat for the birds, for the insects and for other mammals. And if you think of it, this environment is in downtown Vancouver, so this building is not your typical boxed convention center. You go to other ones where you see windows and walls, but this one, you’re surrounded by glass and the roof just really complements it and shows what we can do with the environment. John Shegerian: So wait a second. You have beehives. Dan Lee: Yes. John Shegerian: What else is up there? Dan Lee: We have beehives. We have 400,000 indigenous plants as well. John Shegerian: Wow. Dan Lee: Yeah. It’s an ecosystem up there. John Shegerian: Do people go tour it or is it just to help the ecosystem or do schools come and tour the area as well? Dan Lee: We do tours. That’s one the things we are most proud of is our tours. We do lots and lots of tours here for the community, for professional associations. And we get lots of inquiries from international organizations asking about our living roof, our programs. And we do tours where possible. We do quite a few tours. John Shegerian: The bees are honeybees or not honeybees? Dan Lee: They are honeybees and the honey that is extracted from that goes into our scratch kitchen. That is another thing that we have here. We have a scratch kitchen which makes everything fresh from local products, and the honey is used to go into our exclusive pastries that we serve to our guests. John Shegerian: Wow. Dan Lee: Yup. John Shegerian: So the honey is actually being used in the food production here at the Convention Centre? Dan Lee: Yeah. Food production – like I said we use local products close by. We reduce the emissions in terms of transportation. We try to use as much local product as possible. John Shegerian: Truly driving the circular economy here at the Vancouver Convention Centre. It’s amazing. Talk a little bit about you black water treatment facility. What does black water treatment mean even? I don’t even know and I’d love our audience to hear from you what is a black water treatment facility. Dan Lee: Well our black water treatment facility, the best way of putting it is every time we flush a toilet that water goes somewhere. John Shegerian: Ah. Dan Lee: And we have a system here where the water is recycled. As cities become bigger and bigger there is pressure on infrastructures in terms of population growth. This is a way of inspiring communities and cities in terms of, yes, we have a system here where we flush it and it goes into a plant and is recycled. The water is rendered again for reuse and it goes back into the system. And that water is actually used to irrigate our living roof as well. So there are multiple uses for it and it’s such a fascinating plant and it’s a question that we get asked all the time about during our tours. John Shegerian: But, Dan, the technology exists now – well, I saw Bill Gates recently on the Jimmy Fallon Show. Dan Lee: Yup. Yes, I saw that too. John Shegerian: And he was drinking what he called “poop water.” Dan Lee: Yep. John Shegerian: So that technology exists. So you have taken that technology and you’ve taken black water and made it into irrigation water. Dan Lee: Yeah. John Shegerian: That is amazing. So truly recycling. Dan Lee: Yeah, truly. John Shegerian: So speaking of recycling, what other recycling programs do you have here on premise here at the Vancouver Convention Centre? Dan Lee: Well, John, we try to recycle absolutely everything. That is the best way of putting it. From plastic bottles to metals to wood pallets – you name it – we do our best to recycle it. If there is something that we have a question about, there is no harm in asking the cities and our business partners, “How can we recycle it?” We’re always looking for new ideas in terms of sustainability. But also with our event managers, who are fantastic. They work with a lot of planners in terms of how can we make the events more greener recycling? In terms of the carpet that comes in here. In terms of the products that they order. We don’t want to order too much, so our great event managers work with a lot of the planners to make sure that recycling program is just part of the culture. John Shegerian: So it’s part of the DNA and the culture for everyone you hire here. Dan Lee: Yeah. John Shegerian: That’s how it works. How many employees do you have here by the way? Dan Lee: We have quite a few employees here. There is the combination of official suppliers and Vancouver Convention Centre staff. I believe it’s somewhere around 600 people. John Shegerian: Six-hundred people. Dan Lee: Yeah. John Shegerian: Talk a little bit about the future. You’ve done so much already and you are one of the world’s leading, if not the world’s leader, in sustainability and green facilities. Definitely LEEDing the way being Platinum LEED. What is the future? When you sit down with your colleagues and other leadership members how do you then draw out the next two to five and beyond years here at the Vancouver Convention Centre? Dan Lee: Well, one of my roles is we have to map out what’s going to be happening in the next five to 10 years. John Shegerian: Well, tell us what’s going to be happening. Dan Lee: Well, in terms of what’s going to be happening, one of the things that we do want to remain relevant in in leading the way is to inspire the rest of the industry and our communities in terms of what can be done. We have a black water treatment plant here. Not every building can have it but it’s an idea that can inspire many people in terms of municipalities, in terms of other organizations, what can we do to – because the pressure on the municipal infrastructures are going to increase with population growth. We want to be in a position where we can inspire the next generation, and that’s what one of our purpose as a Vancouver Convention Centre is we want to lead the way in terms of inspiring the next generation. John Shegerian: When you talk about the black water treatment facility and you’re talking to other convention center managers or other people that want to understand it better, is the ROI just compelling in terms of the cost you have to expend to put it in and then what you make back in terms of return on investment and in terms of water and energy and other types of savings? Dan Lee: Well, the ROI can be returned in many ways. John Shegerian: Right. Dan Lee: There are people always focused on the financial. John Shegerian: Right. Dan Lee: But there are other things that need to be measured in terms of – we have a lot of attendees here. A lot of the attendees from ISRI they are the current thinkers and future business leaders in terms of – ROI is always good to look at, but there are other ways of measuring inspiration. John Shegerian: Got you. So it’s important from a messaging and a cultural point-of-view to have that here, to be able to message that and inspire others to follow suit because as you know, and as you said earlier, we have a water problem in California and all across the world right now. Water being one of the biggest issues besides climate change that we are facing. The black water treatment facility is one of the great answers. Dan Lee: It’s a great example. It’s a way to inspire people. There are many solutions to many of the world’s problems, but as long as we continue the dialogue and continue to inspire, I think that’s what’s really going to drive the future growth. John Shegerian: Dan, how old are your children? You talked about legacy earlier and that is such an important thing for our audience to hear that when you make decisions and when you carry on your own professional life you are always thinking about legacy issues and the next generation, which is wonderful and really great to think of. How old are your children? Dan Lee: My kids are eight and 10, Ray and Ricky. They’ve grown up in a world where sustainability is the norm, and in their schools, they are taught about recycling, sustainability, all these things that when I was a kid was an afterthought. John Shegerian: Right. Dan Lee: But now I would think that when they think of their dad, “He tried to make a difference, and he tried his best.” John Shegerian: I think you’re doing more than trying your best. You are doing a heck of a job, Dan, and I’ll tell you what you inspired me and our audience today, so I thank you for coming on Green Is Good. And believe me your kids don’t think you’re trying your best; they think you’re the cool dad. Dan Lee: That’s nice, John. John Shegerian: I’m sure they think you’re the cool dad. Again, thank you for joining us today. This is the ISRI edition of Green Is Good, and we’re so honored to be invited by ISRI to be here, and to learn more about ISRI, go to We’re here at the Vancouver Convention Centre in the West Wing. We’re going to be filming and taping and broadcasting live from the Vancouver Convention Centre all day today. And I’ll tell you, it is one of the greatest venues we’ve ever been to around the world, and we are so happy and excited and honored to be here. And the guy leading the charge, the Director of Facilities Management, Dan Lee, has been with us. He has been our special guest, and Dan, you inspired all of us. You’ve inspired me. You are living proof that Green Is Good. Thank you for joining us, and we’ll see you at our next show.

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