This week’s blog is written by Laura Paquette, Water Conservation Intern.
It begins, as so many things do, in childhood. Before we can read and write, before we know our phone number or can spell our names, we know who our team is. We don the jerseys of beloved players and commit the chants and fight songs to memory. We set aside long days in preparation of the game, sacrificing hot dogs and chips and ice-cold beers to the sports gods, in hopes that our team will win. We know, instinctively, that because we support a team, we belong to something bigger than ourselves. And once a year, each February, we come together to witness team support at its peak, during the Super Bowl.
This year, even though the Falcons didn’t make it, they – or at least their home stadium – will still play a special role on game day. Atlanta’s newly minted Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host the battle between the Patriots and the Rams, making it a huge source of excitement and pride for the city and state of Georgia as a whole.
But why should we care about the building where this game will be played?
In short, because it represents a monumental effort to stick to one’s values in the service of a greater cause, a cause backed by none other than Arthur Blank, co-founder of the Home Depot and leader for construction of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
From the start, Blank saw the stadium as more than just a building. It was a chance to prove something in a world where sustainability is quickly becoming less of an architectural trend and more of a pillar of responsible building practices. Beginning the project, Blank declared that his goal for the new stadium was to attain a Platinum-level LEED certification.
Okay, hold up. What in the world is LEED certification? LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is bestowed upon buildings that go above and beyond to incorporate an environmentally-friendly and sustainable design. LEED has different levels of certification earned by obtaining a certain number of points, and platinum is the most coveted. Platinum certification is a huge deal in the architectural community and was considered impossible for a stadium to achieve.
That is until the Mercedes-Benz Stadium beat the odds. Each element of the stadium was carefully reviewed to increase efficiency and earn maximum LEED points. The efforts paid off and the venue is not only the first stadium to achieve platinum status, but it earned the highest LEED score ever for a sports facility, including all 10 possible water category credits.
Like the Pantheon-esque design of the stadium? What’s inside is even more impressive, as the responsible use of water was at the root of all design decisions. Hidden within the stadium is a storm vault system and a large cistern to capture rainfall for reuse in the cooling tower and landscape irrigation. These elements protect valuable water resources for the citizens of Atlanta and work like a giant sponge to help keep flooding, a constant issue for the area, at bay.
In some cases, the need for water was completely eliminated. Specifically, FieldTurf, a type of fake grass à la Astroturf, took the place of live grass, saving gallons upon gallons of water in field maintenance. Even the bathrooms in the stadium blow old sports facility sustainability out of the water. Literally: the urinals in the stadium are waterless! And you know when the bathroom goes above and beyond, a building really is amazing. With additional water-efficient fixtures in place, the stadium uses 47% less water than its counterparts.
In the mood for a bite to eat in the iconic stadium? Though the available concessions don’t add to the LEED certification credits, they do offer the sports fan the opportunity to care for water, too. Sure, you can grab a tired hot dog or hamburger, the traditional foods offered in every stadium across America. But as you are learning, this is not your average stadium. Not only will you find the concessions surprisingly affordable, but the variety of options is exciting and allows for more sustainable choices. Several food vendors offer vegetarian or vegan options, a rarity in most sports venues. Anytime you choose a meatless meal, you reduce your water footprint.
These are just a few of the stadium’s unique features. You can explore more on the MBS website or through video. If you’re still curious, you can even visit the stadium for a tour to learn more about this pioneering structure.
Essentially, the big question, besides who will win its inaugural Super Bowl, is why should we, hardcore fans who carry out crazy game day superstitions (hello lucky jersey that hasn’t been washed in 5 years) all to secure a win for our team, care about the world’s greenest sports stadium?
The answer is simple. Because during Super Bowl LIII and inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, we aren’t just rooting for the Rams. Or the Patriots. In fact, the team we’re rooting for isn’t playing out on the field at all. We may not realize it, but we are all on the same team, Team Water. Players like the Mercedes-Benz Stadium invite us to take action to support Team Water, the most important team of all, and illustrate how everyone, from quarterbacks to fans can embody the team spirit of conservation and sustainability.
Just like when we were kids, painting our faces with our team’s colors and cheering on the sidelines, we again have an opportunity to support something greater than just a game, than a stadium or a city, something greater than us all. After all, isn’t that what it means to be a team?