SBJ/20090921/SBJ In-Depth

Arenas taking close look at LEED certification

More NBA and NHL teams are showing interest in LEED after Philips Arena in Atlanta and AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami became the big leagues’ first two indoor buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s a voluntary green program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit group not affiliated with the federal government.

Compared with new facilities where LEED scores are weighed heavily toward design and construction, older buildings such as the 10-year-old arenas in Atlanta and Miami get certified by making changes within facility operations to reduce utility costs and cut waste by increasing recycling efforts.

Elsewhere, Toyota Center in Houston is going through the LEED process and hopes to be certified in the first quarter of 2010, according to Doug Hall, the arena’s vice president and general manager.

US Airways Center in Phoenix is considering LEED, and has talked to a pair of consultants, but no decision has been made whether to move forward, said Ralph Marchetta, the arena’s general manager.

Target Center in Minneapolis, after installing a 2.5-acre green roof, is researching the possibility of pursuing LEED status but no decision has been made, said Tom Reller, AEG’s director of operations.

AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami received
its LEED certification in April.

Philips Arena and AmericanAirlines Arena were both certified on April 6 despite taking different paths to achieve LEED recognition.

Team owners drove LEED initiatives as the right thing to do to preserve the environment, but also with a goal in mind to create incremental revenue opportunities.

The Heat tied its LEED commitment to the NBA’s first Green Week in April. Without hiring consultants, the club paid $25,000 to be certified, including a $15,000 expediting fee to ensure the arena would be certified in time for the NBA’s green activities.

Those expenses did not include the $248,261 the team tied to arena improvements that contributed to LEED certification, said Kim Stone, the facility’s executive vice president and general manager. However, arena officials said they likely would have spent the money for those improvements anyway, had they chosen not to pursue certification.

AmericanAirlines Arena’s original design helped the Heat get a head start on LEED, scoring automatic points for covered parking, underground irrigation and reflective roofing materials, plus the absence of a chiller plant that would otherwise burn lots of energy.

Jim Spencer, vice president of operations, opened the arena in 1999, and his “impeccable record keeping” led the club to believe it could handle the LEED paperwork without paying a consultant, Stone said.

Green by the numbers
1.95: Millions of gallons of water Philips Arena saves per year since taking steps in 2008 to reduce water use, ranging from using low-flow plumbing to reducing irrigation.
8%: Reduction in energy use at Philips Arena from 2007 to 2008, representing enough energy to power 1,336 homes for a month, or 111 homes for a year.

In hindsight, the team could have used outside help, she said. The three people the Heat assigned to the LEED project each spent five months and 800 man-hours, in addition to their regular duties, to complete LEED documentation online.

“They didn’t realize once they got into it what was involved,” Stone said. “It seems like on the LEED Web site, every time you fill out a form, five new pages open up you didn’t see before.”

Waste Management, a new Heat sponsor, underwrote the costs, signing a three-year sponsorship valued in the low six figures that was tied to green efforts at the arena, said Steve Weber, the team’s vice president of sales. On a smaller scale, the team is signing new contracts with vendors, starting with Crystalline Water, a supplier to the team offices, as part of the arena’s green program. Crystalline provides point-of-use treatment systems for drinking water as an alternative to bottled water. “It has to be something that makes sense under our green umbrella,” Weber said.

Atlanta Spirit, meanwhile, the group that owns the Hawks and Thrashers and operates Philips Arena, the first NBA and NHL facility to earn LEED status — by four hours — was already pursuing certification when the NBA announced its leaguewide green campaign early in the season.

The group invested $120,000 for the project, including a $13,000 filing fee and $105,000 for technical assistance and expertise to upgrade the arena’s energy performance and reduce water consumption.

Atlanta Spirit hired local consultant Southface Energy Institute and used Southeast Link, an arena sponsor and the facility’s cleaning material supplier, to help guide team executives through the LEED process.

But key personnel such as Barry Henson, vice president of building and event operations, performed most of LEED’s legwork in addition to their regular duties. Considering the time staffers spent on the project, the total cost could be pegged at $200,000, officials said.

There was no sponsor to pick up the tab in Atlanta, but arena marketers are talking to current partners such as Coca-Cola and Home Depot about signing new deals that make sense for green operations, said David Lee, the group’s vice president of business development.

The operational mind-set has changed at both arenas after getting certified. In Atlanta, for example, officials are recycling the old carpet, cabinets, countertops and metals in the suites as Philips Arena completes a $5.5 million renovation of its 78 units.

“From a LEED standpoint, you now look a lot more in-depth,” Henson said. “A lot more materials would have hit the Dumpster rather than allowing a contractor to assist you in getting these things re-used in the building.”

In Miami, the Heat assumed a leadership role in a city that doesn’t always think first about being eco-friendly, Stone said. The arena’s new Mediamesh marquee runs on about one-tenth of the power compared with a traditional sign, she said.

Both groups are also looking at ways to implement solar energy into their arenas.

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