SBJ/20090921/SBJ In-Depth

Bringing green to life

Green isn’t the most sexy topic in sports facility development. But for pro teams, colleges and municipalities going down the path to sustainability, grass roofs, solar panels and the sites themselves can lead to long-term savings and reduce their buildings’ impact on the environment. Here’s a list of notable green designs for new construction, existing buildings and arenas and stadiums still in development:

— Compiled by Don Muret

In Minneapolis, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and the Minnesota Vikings are keeping the lid on a plan to reconstruct the Metrodome using sustainability as a primary theme. The two partners are waiting for public leaders to come to the table to help fund the nearly $1 billion project before determining how much green would fit into a renovated purple palace, said Lester Bagley, the club’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development. But last year’s study done by designer HKS and builder Mortenson to rebuild the 27-year-old facility contains options for a solar-powered retractable roof while recycling and reusing a substantial amount of construction material from tearing down most of the existing structure, Bagley said. The project, should it move forward, would seek LEED certification, joining the Twins’ and Gophers’ facilities in Minnesota pursuing the same goal.
The Minnesota Timberwolves’ 19-year-old, publicly owned arena needed its leaky roof replaced, so city officials decided to invest $5.3 million to install a new roof made of grass and living plants. The 2.5-acre roof provides a much greater level of insulation for the building compared with the old rubber-and-rock structure, said Tom Reller, AEG’s director of operations for the arena. It also captures rainwater, reducing the amount of pollutive substances washing into the nearby Mississippi River. The roofing contractor surpassed its goal of using 50 percent recyclable materials to build the roof, using 450 tons of existing rock and more than 60 truckloads of existing roof insulation. It’s classified as an extensive roof, the kind you don’t have to mow, Reller said. Installation was to be completed in mid-September.
Sustainable design is a state requirement, meaning the University of Oregon’s new basketball facility in Eugene is filled with green aspects that have nothing to do with the school’s primary color. The athletic department, Nike chairman Phil Knight (the chief donor for the project), and design firms Ellerbe Becket and TVA developed a 12,541-seat facility that should be certified LEED silver if not gold, one to two levels above the minimum score required for the green label, said Jon Niemuth, principal architect. A defining feature is the 27,000 square feet of natural wood walls covering the backside of the seating bowl. Using local timber products leaves a much smaller carbon footprint compared with other construction materials, making wood a greener choice, Niemuth said. The $200 million arena opens in 2010.
It may never get built, but that minor detail did not stop the World Architecture Festival from shortlisting the facility design for an award devoted to future commercial projects, due in large part to its green elements. Billionaire developer Ed Roski Jr. hired architect Dan Meis, a designer of NFL stadiums in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, to develop an environmentally progressive stadium in City of Industry, a Los Angeles suburb. They claim it will be the NFL’s first LEED gold building, setting the bar very high for that building type. The stadium would be built into a hill, reducing by 40 percent the amount of structural steel required for construction, which effectively would reduce the need to buy, produce and ship those materials. Southern California’s moderate climate also enabled Meis to design outdoor club lounges, eliminating the need to heat and cool those premium spaces.
HNTB’s design for the team’s proposed $937 million facility in Santa Clara stands out for the suite tower’s green roof and solar panels. But like the proposed stadium at City of Industry, it’s the site that makes the difference. In a water-strapped state, what’s unique about Santa Clara is the greywater recycling system the 49ers’ facility could tap into without having to waste fresh water to flush toilets. In addition, NFL fans could use mass transit on three existing rail lines, including Amtrak, to get to the stadium. “The infrastructure is such a significant part of building a stadium and it’s already in place,” said Tambra Thorson, HNTB’s director of sustainability. “We won’t have to waste resources building it.”
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