By Jill Clayton
The San Francisco 49ers may have been 2013’s Super Bowl Runner-ups, but they could be #1 in LEED (“Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”) standards by the start of next year’s football season. The new 49ers stadium is hoping to become the first pro football venue to get LEED certification with all of its green features, such as its on-site solar power, three “solar bridges” connecting the main parking lot to the stadium, and a 27,000 square foot green roof installation.
LEED certification is based on a rating system used by the U.S. Green Building Council to recognize eco-friendly design. Sustainability factors considered in their determination include interior elements, water conservation, renewable energy, and land use. The 49ers stadium’s certification status is probable as it uses about 2,000 tons of dirt and natural landscape on its roof to reduce water runoff, has a solar canopy above the stadium’s roof, and will feature enough solar power to offset all of the energy needs during home games.
Other green elements that may strengthen their case for LEED certification are the 49ers organization’s plans to offer alternative transportation and to extend sustainability practices to the stadium’s food operations. The stadium will offer access to public transportation, parking for bicycles, and a designated bicycle route direct from Santa Clara to the stadium. As for food service, the stadium plans to sell local foods and use fresh produce from the region.
Education and Awareness
In addition to the environmental benefits, sustainability initiatives at the 49ers stadium and others help spread awareness to millions of visitors and viewers about LEED concepts and going green. For example, the St. Louis Cardinals baseball organization partnered with Microgrid Energy, the Electrical Connection, and Sachs Electric to introduce solar energy to Busch Stadium and provided information about the project and solar energy by including an “educational kiosk.” Safeco Field and the Seattle Mariners, who have saved roughly $1.5 million in the last 18 months through green practices, involve the fans in the initiative by holding eco-trivia quizzes to win prizes at “Sustainable Saturday” games.
In the five major professional North American leagues, 38 of the 126 teams have transitioned to renewable energy for at least some of their operations. Of these 38, 18 have incorporated solar energy. The Philadelphia Eagles football team is one of those. Their stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, is in the works to generate enough energy from 14 wind turbines and 11,000 solar panels to power all of their home games. Rob Zeiger, Eagles’ Vice President of Communications, recognizes the importance of making the stadium environmentally-friendly to not only serve business purposes and save money, but also to educate people on sustainability practices and to perhaps reach an audience that does not yet hold environmental issues as a core value.
With sports teams having such a powerful brand and influence on society, and with so many people paying attention, this seems like a valuable use of resources and an important trend for energy conservation and its promotion.
Jill Clayton is the Country Manager for the U.S. and U.K. Divisions of SolarContact.com, an online marketing company that focuses on solar energy. Jill received her Juris Doctor degree in International Law at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and then went on to pursue her Masters in Law and Business in Hamburg, Germany. She is currently still living in Hamburg, where she works full-time on social media activities and as an energy blogger for SolarContact.