Soccer and sustainability share the spotlight

| by Farah Ahmad
Soccer and sustainability share the spotlight

The FIFA World Cup drew attention all across the globe this Summer, as it has every four years. However, this time, Soccer and Sustainability shared the spotlight. You may not know it, but this was the first World Cup to place a heavy emphasis on green building, construction, and operation.

In June, the United States Green Building Council declared that five World Cup stadiums in Brazil had earned LEED certification. It’s no surprise, considering that Brazil ranks highly for the listing of top countries with green building.  According to “LEED in the World,” an infographic published by USGBC, Brazil places in the top five, with over 600 LEED registered & certified projects as of May 2013.

Sport stadiums, structures of large physical scale and high international recognition, serve as a wonderful international tool to champion the message of sustainability. President, CEO and founding chair of USGBC Rick Fedrizzi agrees, stating, “Even as the world's top teams take the field, the venues themselves are also in the spotlight, demonstrating not only the worldwide applicability and adaptability of the LEED green building rating system, but also Brazil’s leadership position at the forefront of the movement to high-performing green buildings. FIFA and the Government of Brazil have shown great leadership and commitment to mitigating the environmental impact of these World Cup facilities and for making them a showcase of sustainable construction for the international community.”

Maracanã, which hosted the World Cup Final in Rio de Janeiro between Germany and Argentina on July 12th, was one of the five ‘green’ stadiums. It was renovated to incorporate sustainable features, including rooftop photovoltaic panels for the stadium’s power supply, and rainwater reservoirs for the stadium’s water usage. Also in the spotlight is stadium Mineirão, the first solar-powered stadium, featuring 6000 panels. In fact, the stadium produces enough energy to feed back some of the power into the grid.

Meanwhile, Castelao Arena in Fortaleza became the World Cup Stadium ever to become LEED certified. Many facets of the project’s development earned it points towards this achievement. ‘Green’ makes it way through all project phases. During the design phase, materials were carefully selected for low VOC content. During construction, 97% of waste was diverted from landfills and either reused or recycled, and during the games, specially designated recycling areas ensure the separation of paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal. Throughout the building’s operation, a smart-building system will guide energy management and ensure 12.7% annual energy consumption reduction, while a monitoring system helped control the thermal comfort of soccer fans. Furthermore, there is an approximate 68% reduction in potable water consumption.

As we look to the next World Cup, Russia will also seek to go green, as a handful of its stadiums will be assessed under BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment) standards. Six of ten stadiums will strive towards 40% reduced energy consumption.

Qatar’s 2022 World Cup event also aims to green its stadiums through targeted LEED and GSAS certifications- both standards will demonstrate the event’s commitment to sustainability. Energy efficiency  and renewable energy production are amongst the measures.

While I applaud the efforts of FIFA and USGBC, I can’t help but wonder about the afterlife of its stadiums. History has proven time and time again, the gentrification of communities adjacent to World Cup and Olympic stadium construction! Brazil, who went over its budget for the construction/renovation of twelve stadiums, will need to heavily consider space usage. The stadiums, whose current venue capacity exceeds average attendance for regular games, have plenty of potential but could be both economically and environmentally disastrous if not utilized properly… Only time will tell of the actual ‘inhabited’ sustainability of these stadiums!


Topics: Building Green, Sustainability Trends & Statistics, Sustainable Communities



Farah Ahmad

Farah Naz Ahmad was born in New York City and holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from The City College of New York. She is a LEED Accredited Professional in Building Design + Construction. Her career goal is to make an impact on the field of sustainability in design and construction. Her past roles as President of CCNY's American Institute of Architecture Students and as a team leader for the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon have increased her passion for eco-friendly design.

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