Stadiums aim for greener architecture

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Published: June 10, 2018 1:47:43 AM

Measures such as the use of highly-efficient LED lighting, smart toilets, locally-sourced materials are paving the way for newer stadiums.

stadium, cricket stadium, pavillionThe Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. It is one of the few football stadiums in the world with retractable roofs.

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of the few football stadiums in the world with retractable roofs. The final phase of the construction of its roof started this past week. The stadium, located in the home of the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League (NFL), and the Atlanta United FC of the Major League Soccer (MLS), holds the record of the world’s largest halo board.

The unique roof, once completed, will give officials the option to open and close the roof in as quickly as 12 minutes. During this final phase, construction activities will require the roof to be open in a locked position for 10 days to complete elements of the automation process.

The nine-month-old, $1.6-billion stadium has a 20-foot-high gray concrete box underneath an overpass that can hold up to 680,000 gallons of rainwater, collected mostly from the roof of the enormous stadium. The cistern is one of the environmental centerpieces of the building. It is used to irrigate the vegetation around the building, and by storing much of it, flooding will be reduced in the nearby neighbourhood. In other words, the 120-foot-long cistern saves money and helps the surrounding area.

The United States Green Building Council, which grades sustainable design and energy efficiency, has bestowed the stadium with the leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) platinum certification — the first stadium to win it. The agency gives points to builders based on features like efficient lighting, air-conditioning and water fixtures. Builders also earn points for locating their structures near public transportation, and for using locally-sourced and recycled materials.

The stadium secured 88 of a potential 110 points, more than enough to receive the top LEED ranking. It’s no surprise that sports arenas and stadiums have a far smaller carbon footprint than many factories, shopping malls, or office buildings. Even though they host thousands of people for big events, most days, they are used for short durations. And in recent years, these centres have become showcases for green design.

Though critics may argue that leagues are wrapping themselves in eco-friendly banners to help market their sports, team owners have learned that environmentally-friendly arenas are cheaper to operate.

The emergence of green stadiums also means much importance is being paid to climate change. All those fans who are disinclined to care about the environment are exposed to things like highly-efficient LED lighting or low-flush toilets. They can see that going green is not a hardship but rather a choice.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which also earned points for its access to public transportation, charging stations for electric cars and valet parking for bicycles, is the latest in a line of green sports venues. Dozens of sports arenas and stadiums have installed solar panels, LED lighting and scoreboards, energy-efficient air-conditioning and dehumidifiers, and even composters. Many more stadiums across the US are including a translucent coating on windows to reduce the amount of sunlight shining in, and cut the amount of air-conditioning.

The US leads in having the most eco-friendly sports venues. But, many of the innovations are being developed in Europe, where laws and regulations governing greenhouse gas emissions are stricter. Many buildings used in the London Olympic Games were designed to be removed, and the land used for other projects or, like the velodrome, sourced wood sustainably.

In the UEFA Euro soccer tournament held in France in 2016, an array of environmental initiatives was incorporated, including efforts to reduce energy and water use. An international standard for sustainable event management, ISO 20121, was developed. The Stade de Nice used locally-sourced building materials to reduce transportation. The key to reducing the impact on the environment is integrating these measures into the design of the building from the outset. The stadium reduced the amount of concrete and steel by including 4,000 metric tonnes of wood.

Sports teams are looking at tracking the resources they consume, the waste they produce, and the emissions they generate during team travel. The data is pooled and shared, so clubs can learn how to be more efficient through preventive maintenance. The sports authorities are taking this project seriously because it sees a direct threat from the rising global temperatures.

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