The Super Bowl has reached a milestone as it approaches its 50th convocation weekend. But it has also achieved a first as the Big Game will play out in the greenest professional football stadium ever built.
On Sunday, the 68,500-seat Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara hosts Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. The grand sporting spectacle will shine a spotlight on the venue’s state-of-the-art solar-panel system, 27,000-square-foot “living” roof and numerous other sustainable features.[contextly_sidebar id=”HL35w5UXDc7ls7saAnl4ysJsLPEahYlx”]The $1.2 billion home to the San Francisco 49ers is the first venue of its kind to achieve LEED Gold certification, a high rating for environmentally conscious construction from the U.S. Green Building Council.
It seems fitting enough to have this ultra eco-friendly stadium in Silicon Valley, a place of innovation where leading companies such as the region’s own Google and Facebook seek out high sustainability in their work environment.
“It made sense that similar ethic is translated into the stadium,” said Heath Blount, Northern California principal for Oregon-based sustainability strategist Brightworks, which worked on the Levi’s project.
A key focus for the project was to address energy, water conservation and landfill concerns – environmental challenges particular to the Bay Area, Blount said.
Opened in 2014, the stadium was designed to generate more electricity annually with its 1,162 photovoltaic solar panels than what is consumed during the 10 scheduled home games each football season. The panels are located atop three pedestrian bridges and a roof deck.
The green roof on the top of the stadium’s suite tower features 16 species of vegetation native to the Bay Area and helps lower heating and cooling needs.
The stadium also uses reclaimed water for both potable and non-potable uses such as irrigating the playing field.
Its many other green elements include the use of recycled and reclaimed building products wherever possible, electric-vehicle charging stations, low-flow plumbing, and high-efficiency lighting and heating-and-cooling systems.
Dynamic glass from Milpitas-based View Inc. has also just been installed at Levi’s. The installation is the first involving dynamic glass at a sports stadium.
The smart glass maximizes natural light and provides unobstructed views while reducing heat and glare by transitioning from clear to opaque depending on the sun’s angle. According to the company, this glass results in HVAC savings of 20-25 percent.
“Levi’s Stadium delivers a superior fan experience through technology and innovation,” View CEO Rao Mulpuri said in a statement. “We’re excited to partner with an organization that is strongly committed to setting the standard for modern stadiums.”
The stadium is not without its critics, though, who suggest the property’s “greenness” is far-outweighed by its ongoing environmental impacts. Those impacts start with the 31,600 cars that could fill its parking lots this weekend. And despite its location in sunny California, Levi’s Stadium generates only a tenth of the electricity from its solar power system than the Philadelphia Eagles do at Lincoln Financial Field. Even the Washington Redskins generate five times more solar power at FedEx Field. For them, talk of the stadium’s environmental friendliness is just so much “greenwashing.”
“The stadium’s impact on the community and environment is far greater than anything that they can tout about the green features,” said Deborah Bress, a local community activist and spokeswoman for Santa Clara Plays Fair, a group that opposed a successful 2010 ballot measure paving the way for stadium to be built.
But Blount argues that the stadium sits on a sustainable site that provides easy access to various public-transit systems, including a VTA stop at the stadium, helping to address congestion issues.
“We have to always deal with new development unless we completely stop new development, which is not feasible” because of population growth, he said. Levi’s green design and location result in a much “lighter impact” than what otherwise would have happened.
“It has been a tremendous amount of effort and hard work put in by everybody,” he added. “It’s great to see that after all the hard work a great stadium is being used.”
Photo courtesy of levisstadium.com