Las Vegas’ New ‘Central Park’ a Model of Sustainability

las vegas springs preserve
Or, so says the press release I found, anyway. I will say that when I lived in Vegas (’92-’98), sustainability wasn’t anywhere on the radar screen; continued insane growth seemed to be the only real goal for regional development. So, I’ve been happy to see a number of developments springing up, and showing that even “Sin City,” where everything happens excessively, is starting to recognize that a city in the middle of the desert with limited water resources needs to take a look at its environmental footprint.

The new development, called the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, sounds idyllic (that’s saying something in Vegas!): “…180 acres of green museums, botanical gardens, galleries, trails and concert venues…” For our purposes, what’s impressive is the amount of sustainable thinking going into the area. According to the press release,

…the Preserve is designed to set new standards in “green building” while becoming a new cultural hub for locals and even for tourists seeking a different kind of experience than you’d normally associate with Las Vegas.

As the largest commercial straw-bale construction project in the United States, the Preserve is erecting seven new green buildings intended to join an elite list of buildings nationwide that already have achieved “Platinum” Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). …

Although an increasing number of museums are “going green” by incorporating green building principles into their facilities, The Desert Living Center at the Preserve has taken that commitment a step further by using green living principles as the focus of interpretation within its Sustainability Gallery. Many museums today are finding that placing their collections within a sustainable building can yield significant energy cost savings while serving as an effective “lead by example” approach.

But Desert Living Center creators hope their bottom line impacts go beyond energy savings. By imparting practical sustainability knowledge throughout the visitor experience at the Preserve, they hope to tap into a “green movement” that becomes more mainstream and more relevant each year.

“It is a virtual miracle that a city like Las Vegas can exist and thrive in the middle of one of the most inhospitable and resource-poor climates in the world with an average annual rainfall of only 4.5 inches,” said Francis Beland, Springs Preserve director. “This anomaly makes the concept of sustainable living a very relevant topic for Las Vegas.”

To say that Vegas is stretched well beyond its carrying capacity is an understatement — it’s a place that has traditionally thrived on wastefulness. As more people are making the city and region their home, I’m guessing there’s much more consideration of the relationship to the natural environment, as well as the threat of sprawl eating up some truly magnificent lands outside the city. The development of Springs Preserve shows me that a sea change has occurred in thinking in Vegas, and I’m happy for that. Vegas itself has a long way to go, but if sustainable thinking can take hold there, then there’s hope for all of us. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this development, and making it a “must-see” on my next trip.


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