Fields of Green: Designing Baseball sStadium with the Environment in Mind

By Prager, Michael | E Magazine, May-June 2009 | Go to article overview

Fields of Green: Designing Baseball sStadium with the Environment in Mind


Prager, Michael, E Magazine


Across Major League Baseball (MLB), teams are turning greener than the outfield grass. They're reducing energy consumption, extending recycling efforts and investing in renewable energy. So far, four ballparks, induding Fenway Park in Boston, the nation's oldest, draw some of their power from solar energy. There's activity on the construction side as well, with green stadiums opening in each of the last two years, and another one on the way for 2010. Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets, built with 95% recycled steel, just opened in April. Last season brought Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified Major League stadium (it reached the silver level), and next season promises a new park in Minnesota seeking LEED gold.

Building from the ground up gives new parks environmental opportunities that existing parks don't have. Both Nationals Park and Citi Field have energyefficient field lighting and waterless and low-flow plumbing fixtures, for example, and both designs incorporate green (vegetative) roofs and white (reflective) roofs to battle the heat-island effect. Additionally, both projects emphasized using recycled steel and concrete/and kept construction waste to a /minimum. U.S. stadium designer HOK tSport designed both parks, talthough the environmental par- \ticulars were reached by different \routes. In Washington, D.C., theowners of Natio Sports & Entertainment Commission "wanted a facility that was as green as humanly possible, within the budget," says Joe Spear, HOK Sport senior principal.

That's not to say they insisted on LEED certification, though. Spear says it's not as easy for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to adapt its standards--designed for office buildings and, more recently, homes--to ballparks. "A lot of these ballparks have open-air, seasonal-use areas," he says. "You really have to understand the way a ballpark works to know what it means to interpret some of these LEED requirements."

Susan Klumpp, a senior principal at HOK who also shepherded the project, cited the number of bicycle racks as an example. The typical formula for earning a transportation credit would have required 2,000 of them, far more than would likely ever have been used, wasting space and material resources in the name of green building. The USGBC agreed, and altered the requirement.

The USGBC "really saw the value in promoting their cause by having this building certified. It demystifies and makes it seem achievable for other people," Spear says. Meanwhile, in New York, the Mets called on the

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)for guidance, reaching a memorandum of understanding in March 2008 that was widely hailed by city leaders, but does not involve any thirdparty certification of green steps taken. Among the extensive crete mix (keeping it out of the landfill) and to join two post-construction EPA programs, ENERGY STAR and WasteWise.

The Philadelphia Eagles are widely acknowledged as the first and greenest sports franchise--and cemented their reputation at the start of the 20082009 football season with the announcement that they were the first National Football League (NFL) team to be "powered by wind;" thanks to the purchase of 14 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of wind power. But it was a suggestion from actor Robert Redford, a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), that got the ball rolling for baseball teams. In 2003, Redford was hosting a council gathering when Mien Hershkowitz, an NRDC senior scientist, mentioned he'd been working with the Eagles on their greening efforts.

At the time, the council was frustrated by the disdain for environmentalism in Washington and was casting about for "nontraditional allies;' Hershkowitz said. Redford recommended they reach out to the sports leagues. Another trustee present was Robert Fisher, whose family owned a stake in the Oakland Athletics, and he offered to connect the group with MLB. …

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