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Volume 21 No. 2
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Nationals Park blazed trail on LEED status

Pro sports facilities gaining the U.S. Green Building’s LEED certification have now started to become somewhat commonplace, as more than two dozen venues have earned it. Plenty of collegiate programs have also joined in the conservation push in recent years.

But the Washington Nationals, the District of Columbia and ballpark designer HOK Sport had no sports-related road map or best practices to consult when Nationals Park was under construction in 2006-07.

Instead, their challenge was to apply LEED standards commonly used for other commercial buildings into a sports venue, and do it within a project that already was under a fast-track construction schedule, had a capped budget, and was on a brownfield site. In doing so, Nationals Park when it opened in 2008 became the first major sports facility to gain the certification.

The ballpark earned its LEED status through a mix of water reduction

A green roof minimizes heat released back to the environment.
Photo by: Washington Nationals
efforts, energy conserving light fixtures, a green roof that minimizes heat released back to the environment, and a recycling strategy that diverted 83 percent of construction waste by weight away from landfills, among other measures. The green-focused facility practices continue on, with the relative energy savings growing as the Nationals this year posted their best attendance in the ballpark.

The Nationals Park impact, however, can even more fully be felt by newer ballparks such as Marlins Park and Target Field, also designed by HOK Sport and its successor Populous, that have built upon the Washington template to reach even higher LEED certifications.

“It was probably one of the most fun things we’ve ever done,” Susan Klumpp, HOK management principal and a key figure in the company’s sustainable design efforts, said of the Nationals Park project. “It was certainly a bit of a challenge, and given some of the constraints we had, we had to think really creatively about how the credits would be earned.”