On the eve of the Super Bowl, perhaps the biggest celebration of consumerism and wretched excess in America, it may feel incongruous to talk about conserving resources and saving energy. But the San Francisco 49ers, who are currently favored over the Baltimore Ravens in tomorrow’s Super Bowl XLVII, will soon become the NFL’s new symbol of sustainability as their new home, Santa Clara Stadium, vies for LEED certification.
The new $1.2 billion arena, which should be completed for Colin Kaepernick and his jumbo-sized buddies by the start of the 2014 season, will include several environmentally sensitive features, such as a green roof over the luxury suites, a 400 kW solar array and water-conserving fixtures.
Once completed, Santa Clara Stadium expects to become only the second NFL facility to be LEED certified, following the 2003 renovation and expansion of the Chicago Bears’ Soldier Field, which earned LEED for Existing Buildings certification. The Santa Clara facility, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, would be the first to earn a LEED cert for New Construction.
Currently, no level of LEED certification has been set for the design of the 68,500-seat arena, but you can bet the prospector-themed 49ers would love to at least strike Gold status. The Santa Clara Stadium Authority (SCSA) says the goal is to create a net-zero energy facility via a combination of conservation and use of renewable energy sources.
The 49ers are partnering with energy company NRG Energy to install the photovoltaic panels, which will be located along the edge of the stadium’s roof, over the covered walkways that connect to the parking lots, and atop the team’s adjacent and currently existing training facility. According to SCSA, the amount of power produced by the combined PV arrays will be enough to meet the electricity needs during all 10 planned home games each year.
Other green building features will include water-conserving plumbing fixtures, a 27,000-square-foot green roof on the west side of the stadium, the use of recycled materials used during construction, a connection to the nearby San Tomas Creek Trail, access to several public transit options and ample spaces designated for bicycle parking.
The San Francisco team is not the only franchise to make great strides in sustainability in the last few years. Stadiums in Philadelphia, Seattle, New England and the Washington, D.C., area have all installed major solar energy systems and other sustainable features. The Niners, along with 150 teams from 15 professional sports leagues, are also members of the Green Sports Alliance, which strives to make sustainable improvements to stadiums and their own business operations.
No one is suggesting that behemoth stadiums like these, with their acres of parking lots and tons of disposable food containers per game, will save the planet, but at least their huge carbon footprints are starting to be addressed. Also, LEED status for the 49ers’ new home could have an even deeper impact on the NFL three years from now — Santa Clara Stadium is currently one of two finalists being considered to host Super Bowl L in 2016.