We’ve got green, how ’bout you?

The University could win every time with a LEED-certified stadium.

Holly Lahd

It’s not a popular thing to utter among the athletic booster club, but Gopher football has not had a lot to cheer about lately. From heartbreaking bowl-game losses, the firing of Coach Mason and struggling athlete graduation rates, it’s been a tough couple of years for Goldy. Now that we’re going to have a new stadium on campus, some might question the reasonableness of the estimated $288.5 million dollar cost of the new TCF Bank Stadium. But even if the Gophers win the Rose bowl, or have the worst season in University history during the opening season of the TCF Bank Stadium in 2009, the University will still be leading the way and scoring big in an innovative set of green building design features on the new stadium.

A commitment to the environment is nothing new here at the University. As part of its goal of being a top-three research university, the University has created a new Initiative on the environment, combined colleges to enhance environmental programs and developed new programs to cement its focus on the environment. These initiatives obviously have the support of the University, but the TCF Bank Stadium is the opportunity for the University to put its money where its mouth is. By applying the very design principles architecture students learn about in the College of Design, the University is showing the community these sustainable ideas can become reality on the large scale, too.

I’m not going to weigh in on the debate whether publicly funding the stadium during times of rising tuition rates is right or wrong. There are many students on campus, myself included, who don’t attend a lot of football games and do not want to see tuition rise to pay for stadium costs. However, the reality is the stadium will be built. So, if it will be built, let’s build it in such a way to make the stadium a leader in environmental design. And in turn, perhaps those of us who are ambivalent toward the project might take pride in it through these green measures.

The pinnacle recognition of green buildings in the United States is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Ratings System certification. According to Stadium Project Coordinator Brian Swanson, the project will apply for LEED certification and is one of the first stadiums to do so. The project will incorporate recycled materials in construction, innovative storm water management systems and energy efficiency measures.

And by building the stadium on the site of the old grain elevators, the stadium is also cleaning up a brownfield site. The stadium site soil is contaminated with creosote, a toxic chemical left over from an old facility on the site. Creosote was primarily used to prevent railroad ties from rotting, but we now know it is toxic to humans. As part of wanting to build the stadium on the site, the University is required by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to clean up the site.

Actually, since 2004 all projects funded with state bond money must follow State of Minnesota Sustainable Building Guidelines. Continuing since then, the University has invested millions of dollars in upgrading buildings with green features and other new buildings, like the new Bell Museum of Natural History, which will try to be LEED-certified.

Here’s my vision for the stadium: A state-of-the-art facility with energy efficiency measures throughout, a gray water system and maybe even some solar panels scattered on the top of the stadium. On top of this, how about a public transit system for the stadium equipped with hybrid – and the occasional hydrogen – buses? The concessions could be served in specially designed biodegradable containers and perhaps offer a few local food sources during games.

The new campus area that might be built around the stadium would again be designed with state of the art facilities, but also include native plant species and green roofs. What things do you want to see in the stadium? E-mail your ideas to [email protected]

There will always be cost and feasibility concerns with new projects, but this is the time for the University to make bold commitments to further green our campus. With all these stadium design ideas, even Goldy will want to go green, while other schools in the Big Ten will be green with envy. Maybe Goldy can LEED us in a new cheer in 2009 – “We’ve got green, how ’bout you?”

Holly Lahd welcomes comments at [email protected]