Feature Article - July 2011
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Design For All Times

Trends in Sports Facility Design

By Dawn Klingensmith


Green Giants

Concern about environmental impact is another unabated force that is driving sports facility design, from "peewee" types of organizations primarily interested in saving money through improved efficiencies to professional sports arenas hoping to leverage their green credentials into positive publicity.

The Far Hills Country Day School gymnasium, completed three years ago in Far Hills, N.J., is part of the school's 10-year Pathways to Excellence campaign of sustainable campus-wide modernization and expansion. Designed by Butler Rogers Baskett Architects of New York City, the 19,000-square-foot facility makes the most of the school's location in the hills of Hunterdon County. Part of the gymnasium is actually built into the side of a hill, reducing its overall mass and allowing the facility to "self-regulate" its temperature throughout the year due to the surrounding soil's constant temperature. Translucent wall panels in the gymnasium flood the interior with natural daylight. The floor consists of a concrete slab covered with recycled rubber tires and a polyurethane coating.

The College of New Rochelle's Wellness Center achieved LEED Silver certification by incorporating green features like skylights, which reduce the need for artificial lighting; a heat-recovery system that recycles heat coming off the pool; and structural concrete composed of recycled material including fly ash and slag.

Green sports facility design considers the architecture, site, region and climate, building envelope, construction materials, building systems and other variables. Support for green construction across all sectors remains "nearly unanimous" at 92 percent, while at the same time, support for LEED certification slipped 4.7 percent in 2009 to 62 percent, according to a 2010 green building survey by Allen Matkins law firm, Constructive Technologies Group and the Green Building Insider. Cost is a major driver for green building in these tough economic times, which helps explain the gap between support for LEED certification and its associated costs and green construction in general. The top reasons cited for using green construction methods and materials were to save on operating and energy costs.


Recycling Takes a Turn

When the economy gets tough, the tough get creative.

A school in the United Kingdom was honored as the "Best Small Building Project" at the 2009 Building Industry Construction Awards after erecting a new sports hall and gymnasium made from recycled shipping containers. The construction reportedly took just three days from start to finish.

Designed by Container City, SCABAL Architects and Furness Engineering, the gym cost about half as much as conventional construction would have cost. Besides saving money, the brightly colored facility provides the Dunraven School in the South London borough of Lambeth with an opportunity to teach students the importance of recycling and sustainability. Other green features include energy-efficient lighting and indoor climate controls, plenty of natural light and ventilation, and shower water that is harvested and reused for irrigation.

Across the pond, work continues on the $53 million Student Recreation Center at California State University, Northridge. Designed by Irvine-based LPA Inc. to qualify for LEED gold certification, the project boasts an eco-friendly and publicity-garnering innovation: A "ReRev" system will transmit power generated by students on gym equipment into the university's electrical grid.

Other green features include solar panels, recycled construction materials and solar tubes.

Athletic features include an indoor mezzanine jogging track, fitness equipment, sport courts, a three-story rock climbing wall and an outdoor lap pool.