We've Got Energy Savings, Yes We Do. We’ve Got Water Savings, How About You?

March 20, 2017

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WE’VE GOT ENERGY SAVINGS, YES WE DO. WE’VE GOT WATER SAVINGS, HOW ABOUT YOU?
-- Ryan M. Colker, Presidential Advisor, National Institute of Building Sciences

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The transition from winter to spring is an exciting time for sports fans. Baseball spring training is starting up and college basketball’s March Madness is upon us. While fans may not realize it, the success of these events and thousands of others across the country sits squarely on the amazing venues where they take place. These sports venues, often iconic community structures, are not only where our favorite teams compete, but also home to a new, emerging competition – the place where facility teams are vying to win on the field of sustainability, particularly energy and water savings.

In fact, the National Institute of Building Sciences (Institute) and the Green Sports Alliance (Alliance), through an effort initiated by the U.S. Department of Energy,  teamed up last year to better assess how these stadiums are taking on the challenge of energy and water efficiency. Over the course of nearly a year, we engaged hundreds of venue owners, operators, vendors, concessionaires, designers, affiliated organizations and government officials to identify current activities, challenges, and opportunities to improve. Last month, we released our final report, Taking the Field: Advancing Energy and Water Efficiency in Sports Venues.

The Race is On

It’s safe to say that the race for more sustainable, energy efficiency stadiums and sport venues is well underway. A number of teams and venues are leading the way to reduce energy and water use and realize the related economic benefits. Green building rating systems like the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) are helping venues think broadly about energy and water savings and other sustainable design and operations practices. Since Nationals Park (Washington, D.C.) received certification in 2008, the number of certified sports venues has expanded to 80, for a combined total of 31.1 million square feet. Shortly after our report debuted, USGBC highlighted successful sports venues in their LEED in Motion: Venues report, which certainly echoed what we found – that these venues are making significant progress.

For example, M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, became the first existing stadium to achieve LEED Gold in 2013. The newly opened Golden 1 Center in Sacramento became the first LEED Platinum indoor sports venue. Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Falcons and set to open later this year, is also aiming for LEED Platinum.

Many venues have begun deploying clean energy technologies, like LED lighting, solar PV and low-flow plumbing fixtures, which are driving significant savings as a result. The Moda Center’s upgrade to LED lighting saves 939,936 kilowatt hours per year and improves visibility for the Portland Trailblazers. At Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, sinks have new automated devices and 60% of urinals and toilets have automated low-flow flushers, which all told, saves an estimated 390,000 gallons of water.

Tackling Challenges

As with most building sectors, the widespread realization of energy and water efficiency goals is not unimpeded. Variations in ownership and operations structures and the uniqueness of the facilities definitely present challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge is the lack of data to support decision making, quantify the venues’ impacts and inform best practices. Some venues have begun benchmarking in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager or other tools, while others do not have the tools, resources, or training to effectively manage and measure their own venue’s performance. Those that have undertaken steps to understand and improve venue performance have no means to compare themselves with their peers to determine if they are leading the pack or if there is still much more to be done. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) includes stadiums and arenas in the same building type as funeral homes, bowling alleys and libraries. The Institute and Alliance have been working with the Environmental Protection Agency to develop an ENERGY STAR score and certification for these sports venues, but data from venue owners and operators is needed to bring this to fruition. A survey has been developed to capture the necessary data (see http://bit.ly/2k15V6E).

Playing Together to Win

Just as success on the field is determined by the ability of team members to work together, the ability to realize energy and water performance goals requires engagement and buy-in from across the organization. Sponsors, vendors, fans, leagues and conferences, athletes, designers, utilities, and government must work collaboratively to identify and implement the practices and technologies to advance the ball. Significant opportunities exist to further develop existing technology, identify new technology and deploy existing technologies more widely.

Interest in moving the industry forward continues to grow. In coordination with DOE, we look forward to doing our part to help industry participants keep their head in the game and establish the teams and game plan that will help the sports industry cross the goal line.