Guest Commentary: Conservation Las Vegas Style

Located in the middle of the Mojave Desert, the city of Las Vegas is no stranger to water conservation. One Las Vegas institution is doing its part to save millions of gallons of water annually, increasing Vegas’ water resiliency by working with the US Department of Energy.

Through the implementation of a sustainability strategy aimed at conserving both energy and water, Las Vegas Sands Corporation has utilized several innovative water-saving technologies to reduce its properties’ water usage significantly. These upgrades have allowed it to free up millions of gallons of water for the City of Las Vegas.

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Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s Las Vegas resorts, which include The Venetian, The Palazzo, and Sands Expo, make up one of the world’s largest hotels under one roof, with over 7,000 guest rooms and 17 million square feet. The combined property features a 120,000-square-foot casino floor, a 2 million-square-foot convention center, 12 pools, and more than 40 restaurants and bars.

In September 2017, the US Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge recognized Las Vegas Sands Corp. for its water-efficiency upgrades made throughout The Venetian, The Palazzo, and Sands Expo, saving approximately 50 million gallons per year.

The efficiency work at The Venetian, The Palazzo, and Sands Expo demonstrates Las Vegas Sands’ portfolio-wide commitment to sustainable resort operations outlined in its Sands ECO360 environmental strategy. The Sands ECO360 strategy is a comprehensive effort to ensure that every aspect of hotel operations—from the building systems to supply chains—is both energy and resource conscious. Even during building remodel and renovations, Las Vegas Sands incorporates its comprehensive Sustainable Development Standards.

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Water-saving technologies allowed the Las Vegas Sands Corporation to reduce its water usage.

Las Vegas Sands continually studies new technologies for pilot programs as it seeks out ways to fine-tune existing operations. The in-house sustainability team at Las Vegas Sands measures and manages the properties’ environmental performance by recording and analyzing utility data to improve water efficiency. The team seeks to optimize building performance and ongoing day-to-day operations. Additionally, they manage water conservation through several tools, including the Eco Tracker platform, an internally-developed tool that helps Sands implement and measure sustainability projects. Property-level sustainability teams are instrumental in developing solutions, encouraging action, and building awareness of water-efficient practices.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. took its first step toward conservation by incorporating water-saving best practices into the department’s standard operating procedures, including the housekeeping, meeting services, catering & conference management, public area, and food & beverage departments. Standard operating procedures for housekeeping include behavioral changes such as flushing toilets only once after cleaning, turning off the faucet while cleaning, and adhering to the resort’s eco-linen program, which calls for housekeeping to change the linens and towels on the third day of a guest’s stay or at their departure, unless requested otherwise. The Venetian and The Palazzo also implemented water-efficient guest room upgrades that included low-flow fixtures and toilets, which have saved the Las Vegas resort approximately 30 million gallons of water annually.

Las Vegas Sands continually studies new technologies for pilot programs as it seeks out ways to fine-tune existing operations.

For water savings, hotel room upgrades were just the tip of the iceberg for the Las Vegas resorts. Upgrades to filtration systems have helped cut water use significantly at Las Vegas Sands’ properties. The Palazzo has a nanofiltration system that converts an average of 20 million gallons of unusable groundwater into water used for landscaping, street cleaning, and the Palazzo Fountain.

The Sands’ nanofiltration system allows the resort’s horticulture to be “off the water grid.” But what is nano­filtration?

Nanofiltration is a water-membrane filtration process typically used with surface water and fresh groundwater, and the process aims to soften and remove biproduct such as organic matter.

According to Applied Surface Science, nanofiltration is a process that uses membranes to remove inorganic and organic materials from a liquid—leaving water cleaner and more usable for non-drinking purposes such as window cleaning and water-fountain supply. Nanofiltration is completed by diffusion, which separates organic species from the original source—water.

Nanofiltration Water System

This year, Sands replaced sand filtration with glass filtration for 12 swimming pools and 12 spas at The Venetian and The Palazzo resorts. Glass filtration provides clearer, cleaner, healthier pool water and reduces backwash water demand, saving upwards of 5 million gallons per year. The Venetian and The Palazzo resorts also use solar thermal energy to heat the 12 swimming pools, 12 spas, and the first 10 stories of The Palazzo Hotel Tower.

The Venetian and The Palazzo pools use backwashing to clean filters, a process of removing containments by reversing the flow of water through the filter. A field study performed by the Clean Washington Center found that glass media filtration requires less backwashing water than traditional sand-filtration media. The study replaced 1,950 pounds of sand from three high-rate filters with recycled glass and analyzed the results over nine months. The average duration of backwashing, in minutes, was 2:34 compared to 3:21 for sand. This difference equates to a 23% reduction in water use.

The improved performance can be attributed to the lower density found in glass media, which weighs approximately 20% less than sand. The lighter material floats more easily, the study noted, allowing it to fluidize quicker, reducing backwash runtimes.

The water savings generated by Las Vegas Sands Corp. provides other hoteliers the opportunity to implement similar practices at their properties. The Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge will share solutions like Las Vegas Sands’ water efficiency practices on the Better Buildings Solution Center, a central location for more than 1,000 energy and water efficiency solutions.

Better Buildings aims to make commercial, public, industrial, and residential buildings 20% more energy and water efficient over the next decade. This means saving billions of dollars on energy and water bills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating thousands of jobs. Through Better Buildings, public and private sector organizations across the country are working together to share and replicate positive gains in energy efficiency.
About the Author

US Department of Energy

Editorial by the US Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge.