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Buildings NRG helps 49ers get LEED status for new Santa Clara stadium

Published on January 27th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


San Francisco 49ers Dig For Gold With Pro Football’s First LEED Stadium

January 27th, 2013 by  

UPDATE: a reader has pointed out that this isn’t actually the first NFL LEED stadium, but the second. “The Chicago Bears “Soldier Field” is already LEED Certified. This will be the first stadium to achieve LEED certification under the New Construction category, potentially.”

The new Santa Clara stadium, home of football’s juggernaut San Francisco 49ers, is making a run for LEED certification when it opens for next year’s football season. No word yet on whether it’s going to hit silver, gold or platinum status (team owner Jed York is hoping for gold), but it will be the first pro football venue to get LEED certified, and it will feature enough on site solar power to offset all of the energy used during home games.

As for the stadium’s eventual certification status, it might not come close to the LEED platinum standard achieved by the University of Texas for Apogee Stadium, but it still has plenty of green goodies to show off.

NRG helps 49ers get LEED status for new Santa Clara stadiumA LEED Football Stadium for the 49ers

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, which covers a wide range of sustainability factors including interior elements, water conservation and land use.

For the energy-related elements, Santa Clara Stadium relied on guidance and planning from founding partner NRG, the nation’s largest electricity generator. The company has been transitioning to green tech through projects like a massive EV charging station project in California and wind farms in Texas, and at 900 megawatts of capacity it is currently the largest solar generator in the U.S.

Though Santa Clara Stadium’s LEED elements may seem relatively modest, some of them are striking features that represent firsts for pro football. Because of their high visibility they could help familiarize millions of stadium visitors and television viewers with LEED concepts that they otherwise might not encounter.

That includes pro football’s first green roof, a 27,000 square foot installation that will help insulate the stadium’s luxury suites. The roof features about 2,000 tons of dirt and will be landscaped with native plants to reduce stormwater runoff.

Another first is a set of three “solar bridges” which create a high-profile, walk-through renewable energy experience for fans coming from the main parking area to the stadium. Combined with a solar canopy above the stadium’s green roof and a solar installation on the 49ers training center, the panels will have a peak capacity of 400 kilowatts.

More Green Goodies for Santa Clara Stadium

Another LEED-qualifying element is alternative transportation, which the stadium will provide through access to public transit, convenient parking for bicycles and a connection to a popular bike route from Santa Clara, which examiner.com describes as “a mostly straight line and about the easiest ride imaginable.”

In case you’re wondering how many fans will actually bike to a football game, Santa Clara Stadium is a multi-purpose venue for concerts and civic events as well as sports, so you never know, that bike connection might end up getting a good workout.

Aforementioned team owner Jed York also has ambitious plans to extend sustainability to the stadium’s gigantic food service operations, partly by taking advantage of the year-round availability of fresh produce in the region. Apparently that will extend right down to the hot dogs. In a recent interview with the Santa Clara Weekly, York said:

“We’ve been working on food more than any sports team in history. We want to make sure that when you get a hot dog it’s all natural, locally sourced, and something you can feel good about your kids eating.”

What LEED Platinum Looks Like

Gold may end up being Santa Clara’s personal best in terms of LEED certification, but it’s worth taking a look over at Apogee Stadium to see the potential for a major sports venue to achieve the top level of platinum.

The 31,000 seat multi-purpose stadium is the first new collegiate stadium in the U.S. to achieve platinum, and its three wind turbines also make it the first collegiate stadium to generate wind power on site (several pro stadiums have already dipped into wind power, including the homes of the Buffalo Bills and the Philadelphia Eagles). The turbines are grid-connected and will double as an education and research tool for the University of North Texas.

High efficiency HVAC and plumbing systems will reduce energy consumption by about 25 percent and water use by more than 52 percent, with additional savings from optimizing natural daylight for indoor spaces.

Site preservation was an important LEED factor for Apogee, with more than half the overall space devoted to a park-like setting with native plantings. For paved areas, permeable pavers were used to reduce stormwater runoff and mitigate the “heat island” effect.

Other familiar LEED elements include recycling construction debris, using materials and products made with locally sourced or recycled content, and using low-VOC paint, flooring and other interior finishes. The university also established a “green” policy for operating and maintaining the stadium.

Image: San Francisco 49ers by ankarino

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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