When sporting performance meets environmental performance


The latest generation of sports stadia will not only be forums for great sporting performance, but can also showcase how environmental performance can be integrated into building design and operation.

Sustainable design is increasingly of core importance in today’s buildings, of which the latest generation of sports stadia are good examples. The ambitions to become more energy efficient are as relevant to Arsenal Football Club and the organisers of the 2012 Olympics as they are to all commercial energy users. In addition, with football clubs having a unique place at the heart of local communities – or, as with the Olympic village, breathing new life into entire city areas – this adds further societal pressure to demonstrate environmental credentials and lead by example.

With increasing UK and European environmental regulation designed to help the drive to the low carbon economy plus increasing and highly volatile wholesale energy prices, you have a heady cocktail of economic, regulatory and societal factors that can give commercial energy users a nasty headache.

As these are very public developments (of which many are funded by public money) many of those behind the latest sports stadia want to be seen to be addressing energy and environmental concerns, such as energy efficiency. To be truly effective, sustainable design needs to be more than a few well chosen sound bites about environmental legacies. It must consider the total energy costs of a building, assessing individual heat, cooling and power requirements, as well as where energy is consumed.

Whether the building is new build, such as the Emirates Stadium, or an existing facility, there is already evidence that this rhetoric is turning to action and sustainable considerations are coming to the fore.

The proposals to build one of the largest land-based wind turbines at the City of Manchester stadium shows how large-scale green thinking – in this case embedded generation – can potentially offer economic and community benefits. The proposals are still awaiting final planning permission, but if successful, the 80m turbine will generate two megawatts of electricity, enough to power the football club as well as over 2000 local homes.

As well as environmental and social considerations, increasingly organisations are seeing added economic benefits from taking a green stance. The prospect of self sufficiency in terms of energy may have some way still to go, but the idea of becoming net generators as opposed to net consumers has significant appeal. Utilising renewable technology, or other embedded generation options such as Combined Heat and Power, can produce new revenue streams. Particularly as the nature of sports stadia mean they only require energy for relatively short periods of time, allowing the surplus electricity to be sold into the grid, or directly to local consumers through private wire networks.

New build developments allow sustainable design to be introduced at the drawing board stage and the last few years have seen energy efficiency grow in importance in the design of today’s and tomorrow’s buildings. For example, plans for the 2012 Olympic village put as much emphasis on environmental impact as aesthetic appeal. This holistic approach means every aspect of a building can be considered, from the environmental performance of particular building fabrics, to how a stadium can harness nature for heating, ventilation and power.

Constructing energy efficient stadia and buildings is only part of the equation, and to realise true benefits the operation of them should be of equal importance. However, the commercial reality over the past few years to focus on core business functions and the relative low priority of energy and environmental issues have led to companies streamlining facilities and energy management resources. This has resulted in many organisations lacking either the expertise or the resources to address broader energy management concerns.

The increasing economic and environmental pressures, coupled with the reduction in technical resources, have increased the demand for outsourcing much of the responsibility for energy management.

Traditional outsourcing was primarily seen as a more cost effective way of managing asset operations and maintenance. With price volatility and the carbon agenda impacting on energy users, many companies are taking a more strategic approach to outsourcing and looking to the process to bring energy efficiency benefits too.

Looking to the future, while many companies are now taking a broader view of energy management and sustainable development, fuelled by economic and environmental concerns, those in the vanguard are taking the next logical step and considering multi-utility green solutions. Harnessing the latest technologies to produce more efficient energy and environmental solutions is only limited by the imagination.

The latest generation of sports stadia will catch the imagination of spectators, offering new standards of comfort and enjoyment. Using the latest technology and support services, these showpiece developments can also become beacons of 21st Century energy management.

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