U hopes to build ‘green’ stadium

Though it could be the first in the nation, qualifying as green will prove difficult.

Jake Grovum

As “green” policies permeate more of American commerce – from the auto industry to ethanol producers – it’s clear environmental issues have found their way into corporate boardrooms.

The University set its sights on contributing to the trend as they look to make TCF Bank Stadium the nation’s first “green” stadium.

The U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmentally friendly building designs, rates building based on their efforts to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

To achieve LEED certification for its stadium, the University must submit construction information to the council to be evaluated based on an extensive list of criteria.

“It’s where you build, it’s what you build, how you build it and then how you operate it,” Brian Swanson, stadium project coordinator said. “So far, I think we’re on track to get certified.”

Points are awarded to a construction project based on the sustainability of the site, water and energy efficiency, atmospheric impact, indoor environmental quality and innovation in environmental design, according to council guidelines.

Since the University first interviewed prospective architects for the stadium, the pursuit of an environmentally friendly facility has been a priority, Scott Radecic, senior principal for the stadium-architecture firm HOK Sport, said.

Radecic also serves as the principal in charge of the University’s stadium project.

HOK Sport was the lead architect behind the University of Connecticut’s football training and indoor practice facility, Radecic said. It was the nation’s first collegiate athletics facility to attain LEED certification at a silver level.

Construction plans were made to qualify for a number of LEED points, more than required to achieve certification, Radecic said.

Certification Obstacles

Despite their intentions, University officials might face some difficulty in their quest for LEED certification.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sent a letter in May to University officials. The letter identifies seven potential violations, most of which concerned sediment escaping the construction site along with rain water.

A “sediment plume with a chemical odor” was observed in the Mississippi River and inspectors documented sediment in the street near the construction site, according to the letter.

Construction crews were working on a sewer line as part of a project for the Metropolitan Council, which led to the letter, Swanson said.

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Waste management practices at construction sites also play into LEED point totals, according to the building council.

The council was unavailable for comment as to whether they would differentiate between the sewer project and stadium construction.

University officials responded to the letter with their plans to address the MPCA’s alleged violations.

They have heard nothing from the MPCA since, Swanson said.

The investigation remains “ongoing” and as a result, officials are unable to comment further, Amy Rudolph, MPCA director of communications, said.

Thinking “Green”

Officials are hopeful they will receive points for redeveloping an area that contains contaminated soil from years of railway use near the stadium, Radecic said.

The stadium site will also feature areas of vegetation to collect water and naturally filter out sediment and pollution, Swanson said. This would be another component that could turn into LEED points for the project.

By utilizing low-flow water fixtures and adhesives with low levels of contaminants that have a negative impact on the environment, Radecic said the project should earn even more points from the council.

A construction project is also evaluated by how far supplies must travel to reach the site, according to the council.

All concrete blocks and precast concrete for the stadium will come from less than 500 miles away, the cutoff to qualify for those points, Radecic said.

Energy use also plays a role in LEED certification and the completed stadium will join most campus buildings in the University’s district energy plan, Jerome Malmquist, University director of energy, said.

With the stadium on district energy, the University has the option to use biofuels over natural gas or electricity, which would be “really expensive,” Malmquist said. This would allow officials to avoid building a separate energy source specifically for the stadium.

The council, however, might not grant certification until six months after the stadium’s preliminary completion date of August 2009, Rodecic said. Despite this, officials are excited at the prospect of having a “green” stadium on campus.

“There’s a lot going on in that stadium, it’s not just football,” Malmquist said. “It’s an anchor for a lot of things that are going on over there; it’s really kind of neat.”

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