Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Green Diamonds I: Nats Open MLB's First Green Ballpark

The Green Miles is a bit groggy today, having woken up at 5:45am to watch the Red Sox beat the A's in the TokyoDome as Major League Baseball opened the 2008 season.

As the new season kicks off, I thought I'd take a look at some teams that are reducing their environmental impact without adding significantly to their costs.

I'll start right across the river in Washington, DC, where the Nationals are getting ready to open the first LEED-certified ballpark in the majors. As you can see, it's ready for the first home game on Saturday, an exhibition against the Baltimore Orioles.

Architects say LEED certification added just $2 million to the stadium's costs, a fraction of one percent of the total. Or in baseball terms, less than the cost of a free agent middle reliever. And some of those costs will be quickly recovered. High-efficiency field lighting uses 21% less energy than standard lighting.

What some may see as Nationals Park's design flaw is actually its biggest environmental plus. As these Peeps helpfully demonstrate, it's going to be difficult to drive to Nationals Park and even harder to park there. The vast majority of fans will take public transportation.

More facts snipped from Fast Company magazine:
The 6,317-square-foot green roof over a concession area is planted with about 1,200 drought-resistant sedums. A donation from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation covered the $100,000 cost.

The first-of-its-kind wastewater system uses sand filters calibrated to a ballpark's unique needs -- for instance, it's designed to screen out organic debris such as peanut shells and hot-dog bits. The engineers claim that water that has gone through the system is cleaner than the water in the nearby Anacostia River.

An in-house recycling center is equipped with four 34-cubic-yard dumpster-compactors, big enough to handle the glass, metal, and plastic recyclables generated during one three-day home stand.
For those of us who don't speak horticulturese, sedums basically = hardy shrubs.

Of course, the National Trust for Historic Preservation often makes the case that the greenest building is the one that's already built. Would it have been more environmentally-friendly for the Nats to renovate RFK? While The Green Miles is not a scientist and does not even get to play one on TV, I'll say probably. The material and energy it takes to build a new stadium from scratch probably outweighs the negatives of RFK's non-LEED building and massive surface parking lots. But DC wanted to blow half a billion dollars on a new ballfield, so that's that!

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