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Going green

TCF Bank Stadium strives for sustainability

By Martha Coventry

An architectural rendering of TCF Bank Stadium
The TCF Bank Stadium is on track to become one of only three LEED certified--the new gold standard for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings--stadiums in the country.

The promise of the new University of Minnesota football stadium grows bigger, literally, everyday. Rising from a former parking lot, the superstructure is now in place and seating is about to be added to the steel beams ringing the field. The large, locally made panels, naming each Minnesota county, have been laid into the brick walls and it?s beginning to look like the collegiate stadium it will be when it opens in September 2009.

But it?s not just a pretty face?it?s aiming to be the most environmentally responsible major sports stadium in the country. In working toward LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification, the new gold standard for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings, the University of Minnesota has set a high-water mark for all elements of the stadium.

From the storm water that flows through its cleansing run-off system to the lights illuminating the field, the U is paying strict attention to how the stadium is constructed and how it will be run on game day. If it wins LEED certification, all the better, but the goal is to use resources wisely.

"The U wants to be a good steward of the environment, period," says project coordinator Brian Swanson. "As a public institution, this is just the right thing to do."

"Sustainable design is good design, and good design leads to a better project," says Swanson.

Before it even broke ground for the stadium on the Twin Cities campus, the University took steps to ameliorate the local environment. It cleaned up the old brownfield site (meaning any area that has, or potentially has, been polluted) where the new building stands--a parking lot atop a former railroad property contaminated with creosote and other hazards. And it installed a multi-million-dollar storm water management system that also serves a larger area of campus. The system captures rainwater, filters out sediment, and slows the rate of water--allowing it to further filter through the soil--as it flows into the Mississippi River.

Building blocks The structural frame of the building is made of 90 percent recycled steel. The roof will be crafted out of a reflective material to reduce the heat absorbed and then emitted from the building. And as many materials as possible are being purchased from manufacturers within a 500-mile radius. This minimizes the travel distance from the manufacturer to the building and reduces the consumption of fossil fuels. At least 50 percent of all construction waste materials for the stadium are being recycled or reused, reducing the impact on nearby landfills.

Inside the structure, low-flow plumbing fixtures (faucets, showers, etc.) will be used, reducing potable water use by a minimum of 20 percent annually over a standard design. The stadium will also use at least 10 percent less energy than its conventional counterparts. The U's central steam plant, which burns biomass and oat hulls, will power the building.

The U chose adhesives, sealants, paints, and carpeting for the building that nearly eliminate the introduction of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can aggravate health problems.

In the area surrounding the stadium, the U is working to lower the impact of vehicle traffic. It will provide bicycle parking, maintain current bus lines, and encourage use of a future light rail stop. No net parking spaces will be added, minimizing new asphalt paving and the urban heat-island effect.

And when it comes to outdoor water use, an irrigation system will reduce by 50 percent the amount of water needed for the landscaping surrounding the building.

Long view Beyond green construction, there is the issue of "game day" use. Crowds of up to 50,000 people can generate a whole lot of waste from programs, food containers, and food preparation itself. It would silly to build a smashing new environmentally responsible stadium and then fill its trash bins with Styrofoam cups and truck its food in from thousands of miles away.

There are scores of details to work out about how the stadium will buy and serve food. According to Scott Ellison, associate athletics director for facilities and events, the stadium will strive to use beverage containers that can either be recycled (20 oz. plastic soft drink bottles) or taken home (souvenir cups). Athletics is investigating the use of biodegradable packaging made from corn resin and will encourage the use of locally grown, raised, and produced food. The University has a good track record in that area. In 2006, it bought 46 tons of local produce and meats for its dining services, a 230 percent increase over 2005. "We want to be a sustainable operation," says Ellison. "Two ways we will move in that direction is by separating food waste from recyclables and by using all electric vehicles in the facility, like golf carts and forklifts."

One of the best things about a green stadium on campus is the opportunity to educate.

"Sustainable design is good design, and good design leads to a better project," says Swanson. "The University is all about education, and the new stadium is a perfect chance to educate the public about building responsibly."