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October 07, 2004

College Athletics Facilities Turning Green?

FROM A GROWING BODY of green-conscious property owners / managers, builders / architects and resource / energy efficiency experts comes an accelerating number of “sustainable design” athletic construction and renovation projects.

Like so many seemingly slam-dunk ecology-oriented initiatives, the phraseology and nuances associated with green building designs, construction and retro-fits can be somewhat misleading.

For example, in the food and drug world, we are confronted with the terms natural, all natural, organic, pesticide-free, artificial, synthetic, etc.

In the transportation world, we are confronted with the terms 4-wheel drive, all wheel drive, traction-control, sport traction, etc.

Do regular consumers really know what these terms mean?

Similarly, in the college athletics facility world of renovation, maintenance, operation, design, redesign, utility design, landscaping, grading, drainage, parking and crowd control, administrators are confronted with a baffling—and sometimes conflicting—set of decision criteria, including:

• cost
• athlete friendliness
• cost
• spectator friendliness
• cost
• administration / donor / faculty acceptance
• social / ecological responsibility
• cost
• competitive pressures (i.e.-arms race)
• cost

Did we mention cost?

This Clips excerpt comes from a lengthy (6 pages, 4000 words, 7 photos and a jumbo chart) article from the October 2004 issue of Athletic Business which details the current “State of the Trade” in Sustainable Building Design.

Despite the overall thoroughness of the article, it failed to define the terms “sustainable” and “green.” So, in due diligent preparation for this succinct excerpt you are now reading, the Clips Cyber Patrol sprang into action.

After scanning a dozen sites, we found a wide range of descriptors for sustainable / green design. Here’s one that was sort of in the middle (from the “Pentagon Renovation & Construction Program Office” site):

What is Sustainable Design?
Sustainable design includes not only environmental considerations, but how environment integrates with cost, schedule, operations, maintenance, and worker/employee considerations.

At the epicenter of the green design movement is a coalition of building industry leaders called the US Green Building Council, or USGBC. In 1998, the USGBC issued its first-ever benchmark for measuring the “greenness” of facility designs, called the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design Rating System, or LEED for short.

LEED is defined on the usgbc.org web site as “a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.”

Projects are evaluated and LEED credits are awarded in six categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design process.

Among the many elements considered for LEED certification process:

• window / wall / door insulation

• utility efficiency (including renewable energy)

• rainwater collection systems (e.g.- supplied to toilets and sprinkler systems)

• exterior photovoltaic light systems mounted on recycled wood pilings

• felled trees on property milled into decks, benches and bleachers

• porous concrete parking lots to eliminate the need for a storm water management system

• smaller parking lots (encourage public transportation), carpool signs, electric car charger

• solar energy collector

The cost factor of sustainable designs is a much debated topic. Some still think there is as much as a 10% premium; others claim that it’s 2-3%. However, neither camp disputes the year-in, year-out energy / utility savings associated with proper sustainable design.

The big boxes that are characteristic of college athletic facilities are especially challenging to heat, cool and light efficiently.

David Hammel, of Denver-based Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture, says “Rec centers are huge energy hogs. A typical community recreation center uses more energy on a square-footage basis than a hospital. If ever there was a building that people needed to take a look at in terms of energy usage, it’s the rec center.”

Or the gymnasium, or the field house, or the practice facility, or the locker room.

More later . . . .


(this 607 word excerpt—with accompanying commentary--was distilled from an article of 6 pages, 4000 words, 7 photos and a jumbo chart from the Oct. 2004 issue of Athletic Business)