The Benefits of Robust Sustainable Action – Is Net Zero Right for Your Venue?

Create environmental impact within your community and value for your organization with a net-zero energy building.

According to the American Institute of Architects, 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States can be traced back to the built environment. To slow the effects of climate change, builders and designers will need to make dramatic changes, particularly with large venues. Facility owners are already evaluating their environmental footprint and doing what they can to minimize their impact.

Switching to LED lights and low-flow fixtures, adding solar arrays, and encouraging recycling programs are among the simplest and quickest sustainable strategies to implement. EwingCole Sports and Entertainment is interested in creating a more significant impact by developing true net-zero sports venues with a renewed focus on energy, carbon, water, and waste. We’re not talking about creating arenas that simply buy green power to offset their usage, but on-site power-generating facilities that meet the building operations annual energy consumption – and then some.

We see many sports organizations leading the way with sustainable initiatives and upgrades, but there are still some real hurdles to overcome, from lack of funding to address the higher initial costs, to the lack of physical space for solar arrays, to the de-prioritization of sustainable upgrades due to the perception that these initiatives don’t offer as much of a competitive advantage as other facility improvements.

In addition to doing the right thing for future generations on earth, creating a net-zero venue generates a number of advantages at the individual facility level.

Reduced Operating Costs/ROI

While there is often a higher initial cost to provide the infrastructure needed for more efficient and renewable energy systems, a detailed life cycle cost analysis can help guide you to the best decision for your venue and your community’s future. For a recently completed life cycle cost analysis at the U.S. Military Academy, EwingCole analyzed multiple envelope and HVAC system options to determine the most beneficial combination based on net present value with an equal focus on minimizing energy use intensity and associated emissions.

The analysis considered initial cost, operating cost, ongoing maintenance costs, time value of money, and major repair and replacement. As a result, the analysis proved that a more efficient, non-traditional HVAC system will provide the best life cycle cost and lower the building’s total energy use intensity by 15% compared to a baseline code-compliant system. Looking beyond initial cost to total cost of ownership becomes a key aspect when evaluating efficiency projects.

The next decade will be accompanied by new energy codes, insurance policy changes due to climate risk, and mitigation and carbon mandates that will require swift response. Preparing for these changes now limits the risk of a sudden and costly upgrade expense down the road.

Strengthening Your Fan Base

Consumers are more belief-driven than ever. Environmental responsibility is important to fans and communities, and they’re using their purchasing power to reinforce those values. Their decisions are fueled less by price or convenience and more by which brand is making a positive impact in their community and around the world. Incorporating sustainable design into an organization’s facilities furthers an organization’s Corporate Social Responsibility or Environmental Social Governance initiatives by demonstrating to a local and national fan base that the organization cares about its impact on the environment and the health and wellness of the community and its fans.

In Edelman’s 2018 Earned Brand report, it was found that 65% of global consumers are making belief-driven purchases – up 50% over the previous year. Modeling your venue as an example of cutting-edge and innovative technology and sustainable design practices will attract an enthusiastic, young, and values-focused fan base and strengthen the relationship with your existing community.

Increased Sponsorship Opportunity and Value

In the same way your team can generate new fans, corporate sponsors also see improved brand perception in association with sustainable efforts. The opportunity to market a net-zero venue of any kind is one owners and franchises should leverage. The announcement of Amazon’s Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, for example, was featured in Forbes, CNBC, NBC Sports, CNN, Bloomberg, The Athletic, and, each putting millions of eyes on the venue’s announcement.

Every Situation is Unique

Even if Net Zero isn’t the right target for you, EwingCole is committed to supporting your sustainability goals. Our integrated design process begins with goal setting and benchmarking, placing a high emphasis on reducing resource usage (energy, carbon, waste, and water) through efficient and innovative systems. This allows us to first minimize the total energy needed, therein rightsizing the amount of renewable production necessary. We then focus on regionally specific opportunities and constraints, continually modeling throughout the design process to validate our work. In addition, arenas and stadia are unique venue types and must also be recognized and considered when targeting net-zero goals.

Some facility-specific strategies to consider:

Pair the irregular peak occupancy at stadiums with battery arrays that can gather excess energy generated from renewables on off-days and store them for event day peak usage.

The expanse of parking at your arena can cover a network of underground rainwater, greywater, and blackwater collection and treatment systems. This allows facilities to reduce or eliminate your reliance on municipal potable water sources, saving costs and minimizing wastewater discharge, thereby reducing your impact on the local watershed.

Leverage your status within the community to create partnerships in your region around food and waste. Bring locally grown and produced food and vendors into your arena for event days and partner with community outreach programs to donate extra food to address food scarcity and divert from the landfill. Update purchasing plans to reduce single use items, implement recycling and composting policies, and create connections with community recycling programs.

The time to prioritize robust sustainable action is here, and while your organization might not be prepared to go implement a true net-zero facility just yet, it’s never too early to start planning. We have the expertise to help you identify the right sustainable path for your facility, and we encourage you to act boldly as environmental leaders within your community.

This venue solution was published in partnership with EwingCole.