Monday LEEDoff: Nationals Open Gates at America’s First Green Ballpark

Although the rating system was never intended for sports facilities, the $611 million Nationals Park in D.C. is the first LEED-certified baseball stadium anywhere in the country to earn the designation from USGBC.

Last week, brand-new $611 million Nationals Park, home to the National League East’s Washington Nationals baseball club, officially received a LEED Silver rating from USGBC, becoming the first baseball stadium in the country to earn the designation. Just a scant few days before Major League Baseball’s 2008 Opening Day, the ballpark earned 33 LEED points for a design by HOK Sport that, among other things, respects the park’s location in Southeast adjacent to D.C.’s Anacostia River. So far, so good for the Nats at their new home; Ryan Zimmerman cracked a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the club a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves in the first regular season game at the ballpark on Sunday night.

According to HOK Sport project manager and LEED program manager Susan Klumpp, the firm “worked closely with the USGBC to find creative ways to incorporate environmentally friendly design concepts.” The project site is actually a former brownfield that joint venture builders Clark Construction Group, Hunt Construction Group, and Smoot Construction Company remediated. To respect the local waterfront, the Nationals installed six underground sand filters to prevent runoff, rubbish, and other items originating in the stadium from winding their way into the river. D.C.-based architecture firm Devroux & Purnell assisted HOK & the joint venture builders in bringing the 41,888-seat stadium online in just 23 months. The Nationals have also arranged for third-party commissioning of the stadium’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in order to optimize the ballpark’s performance and reduce utility bills.

Other specific green features include efficient lighting that will save 21 percent in energy costs over comparable, traditional stadium lighting schemes and plumbing fixtures that will conserve 3.6 million gallons of water each season, reducing the ballpark’s water consumption by 30 percent. 80 percent (5,500 tons) of construction debris was recycled, over 20 percent of building materials were manufactured with recycled content, and a 6,300-square-foot green roof above the left field concession stand and restroom facility captures and recycles rainwater. The club has also installed 100 recycling bins for fans to use across the park’s concourses, as well as posted signage throughout the stadium to educate fans about its sustainable features. In terms of mass transit access, the new Navy Yard Metro station, which opened up last week and sits just a block away from the ballpark, can accommodate 15,000 fans per hour.

Nationals Park is the second green sports facility in the D.C. area; the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Virginia, which opened in November of 2006 as the training center for the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals, was designed to a LEED Certified level, but did not register with USGBC in order to officially pursue a rating. Locally, the green features of HOK Sport’s design for the Mets’ new Citi Field in Queens, which will open in time for the 2009 baseball season, were recently unveiled, though that project is not seeking LEED certification either.

Nationals Park appears to be a beautiful facility, and we’ll be following the commentary from fans and the club itself during the course of the 2008 season. Still, the LEED system was not intended for stadium or arena construction, given the unique nature of those sectors of the construction industry, but at least as of a year ago HOK was working with USGBC to develop a LEED product tailored for sports facilities. While it’s unclear where those efforts currently stand, particularly in light of the pending release of the LEED Bookshelf System (Version 3.0) for public comment on May 1, it’s nevertheless important to note the increased attention that teams are paying to sustainable construction and operations. In addition to Citi Field, green stadiums for the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays, Florida Marlins, New Jersey Nets, and Orlando Magic are in various stages of development. For better or worse, given the significant role that professional sports play in our society, there’s no question that clubs should take a leadership role in promoting sustainability and educating their respective fan bases about the importance of their green efforts.

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2 Responses to Monday LEEDoff: Nationals Open Gates at America’s First Green Ballpark

  1. Ryan Genovese Monday, March 31, 2008 at 10:56 am #

    I was at both games this weekend (exhibition against the O’s and opening night) and I have to say that the stadium is a real sight to see. On the outside the stadium is definitely a new look, the glass and limestone somewhat modern look breaks free from the forced “olde tyme bases-ball” feel of most of the recent ballparks. Unfortunately, the inside of the stadium doesn’t keep up with the outside innovation. The field and seats seemed to be a clone of Safeco field in Seattle.

    As for the green elements, they were there, but well hidden I guess. Besides for the recycling bins and a bike rack nothing else stood out, I didn’t see the green roof, or any indication that the plumbing was saving water. That’s probably the best way to do it.

    Just some preliminary notes from a visit to the first green ballpark.

  2. Stephen Del Percio Monday, March 31, 2008 at 9:17 pm #

    Thanks for the insight, Ryan. I’d be curious to get your take on how the locals feel about whether spending $611M in public funds on a baseball stadium is at all sustainable- obviously a critical piece of this story that our post glossed over.