By Kelly Pedone
be taking a toll on housing and some
commercial construction, but business is booming in the design and building
of public-use facilities, thanks in part to long development cycles.
However, buildings are designed a bit differently these days. More attention
is being paid to sustainable and environmentally friendly details and
flexible use. And while there may not be as many professional sports
facilities under construction now as in the past, those that ushered in a
new era of design 10 years ago are undergoing renovation to implement new
technology, energy efficiency and greater use.
Because of unknown economic pressures that may impact
attendance at events and meetings, facility planners and designers are
placing more emphasis on the life cycle of a facility.
“There is a greater amount of up-front analysis applied
toward developing the appropriate facility type and size,” says Don Keel,
construction manager with Hardin Construction. “Developers work toward
finding a niche for their project to help ensure market success and affected
communities work to avoid cannibalizing similar facilities in the same metro
Just a couple of years ago, architects and designers had to sell clients on
the benefits of sustainable design. It was something that was viewed as
progressive or fashionable. Today it’s a necessity.
Some publicly financed facilities require that a
certain amount of its buildings be built with materials that can be
transported from a limited distance and that materials are either
recycled or recyclable. University projects, especially, have specific
requirements in the types of materials used that are considered
“earth-friendly,” and that cooling and heating systems use fewer carbon
emissions. Facility designers also are seeing a greater desire to have
public-use buildings on or near public transportation lines, therefore
reducing the need for patrons to drive their cars.
“A few years ago, most owners and building managers
knew very little about sustainable design,” says Don Grinberg, principal
architect and director of convention center architecture for HNTB
Architecture. “Today, sustainable design is not just a trend but is becoming
a regular practice. The most progressive owners and managers are even asking
what it takes to be carbon neutral.”
One of the more popular design features is the use of
“day- lighting” — the practice of placing reflective surfaces and windows or
other transparent media so that during the day, natural light provides
effective internal illumination. Daylighting is also achieved by using
skylights and clerestory windows that provide indirect natural light.
Within the overall architectural design of a building,
particular attention is given to daylighting when the aim is to maximize
visual comfort or productivity, or to reduce energy use. Energy savings
from daylight is achieved either from the reduced use of electric lighting
or from passive solar heating or cooling. HNTB’s recent projects, such as
the renovation and expansion of the Kansas City Convention Center and the
expansion of the Santa Clara Convention Center ballroom, incorporate
A Sustainable Standard
Bill Crockett, principal architect with Ellerbe Becket, says that planners
on the West Coast — particularly in California, Washington and Oregon — are
ahead of the country when it comes to sustainable design, but the concept is
spreading quickly across the nation. “The radical
rise in energy costs is on the top of people’s minds,” he says. “We’ve
always advocated sustainable design, but now clients don’t need to be
Rick Martin with HOK Sport adds that sustainable design
is now standard. “Every client wants to explore it. It’s not a fad
any-more,” he says.
Many new projects seek to achieve Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification through the Green Building
Rating System. But even if building designers don’t want to take all of the
measures necessary for the certification, they still find ways to
incorporate best practices.
For instance, when Ellerbe Becket planned the Rose
Garden in Portland, they created a site near a transit site. They’re also
sure to look at the orientation of a building on a site to mitigate the sun,
and they also work with construction managers to reuse existing buildings on
the site. “Energy costs are on the top of people’s minds, so any little
thing that can be done to alleviate those expenses is taken into
consideration,” Crockett says.
But an owner’s focus on energy costs and being an
environ-mental steward isn’t the only driving factor behind
sustainable design. Grinberg says that meeting planners seek out such
facilities in considering where to hold events. “It is increasingly embedded
in the way everyone does business,” he says. “Planners want to host meetings
in facilities where the operators recycle and implement environmentally
In a time where every dollar counts, new construction is focused on making
spaces flexible enough to accommodate various types of events. Whether it’s
giving a facility the ability to add seating or divide a room, buildings
need to be active to enhance revenue. “There is a desire to keep things
intimate but with the ability to manipulate the space,” Crockett says.
“Facilities are adapting existing seating to box seats or loge seating.”
Most arenas need to book about 200 nights, so an
18,000- seat facility needs to be able to be reconfigured to attract a
5,000-seat event, Martin says. “Creating a multipurpose facility isn’t
really a new concept, but there is much more emphasis being placed on them,”
he says. “Designers are now paying close attention to the needs and
requirements of touring acts more than we used to.”
For example, designers take rigging requirements into
consideration in addition to how much can be hung from a roof, in case the
upper bowl needs to be covered with a curtain. “Not every act can sell out
18,000 seats, so facilities can’t be limited,” Crockett says.
An increasing demand in quality of food also requires
flexibility in a building’s design. Clients often ask for the capability to
include upgraded kitchen equipment and menu boards, Crockett says. “The bar
is continually being raised when it comes to food service, and buildings are
creating what can be equated to gourmet kitchens,” he says. “They also need
the ability to change out menu boards during events.”
Some facilities, Crockett says, offer seventh-inning
specials or a variety of desserts during an intermission that weren’t
offered earlier in the event. Even in convention centers, there is a need
for high-quality food as planners are pressured to shorten meetings. Fewer
people get the chance to leave a building for a meal during a trade show or
convention, so in order to attract more groups, the food services have to be
The increasing popularity of iPhones, Blackberrys and other PDAs has many
facility designers incorporating the use of free wireless Internet. Also,
audio/visual technology continues to improve, so buildings should be
designed to upgrade those services without having to be redesigned each
Technology is also being used to reduce the number of
people necessary to operate a facility. Designers are creating
infra-structure to support computer systems that can alert them when a door
is open, if lights are on in an unused room or if the heating and
system is not operational. “Again, this helps with a facility’s bottom line
— the need to have fewer people walk around a building to check on these
items,” Crockett says.
Despite the difficult economy, Martin says that HOK has never been busier.
The sports architecture firm recently opened a facility in Newark and has
projects online in Wichita, Kansas; Orlando; and Pittsburgh.
“Arenas have a longer shelf life than most other
facilities, so we are not seeing a downturn due to the economy,” he says.
“If anything, business is booming. We still see the desire for a downtown
arena to lift urban redevelopment and revitalize a city.”
Keel agrees that new construction and updating existing
facilities will continue to be steady. What has changed, though, is how
developers approach the planning. Planners want smart, streamlined designs
and pay closer attention to life-cycle costing — not how much it costs in
savings but long-term sustainability.
“The overall level of scope, complexity and finishes
appears to have been scaled back,” he says. “Communities and developers
appear less likely to hire a ‘starchitect’ and pay the premium for their
services and associated scope. Some decision-makers have figured out that
they can save 20 percent to 30 percent or more in project costs and still
have an iconic venue by simply building a more pragmatic project team.” fm