A Sustainable Milestone

Nationals Park, located in the Near Southeast area of Washington, D.C., is America’s greenest ballpark, the first professional stadium in the United States to earn LEED Silver Certification. Situated on the banks of the Anacostia River–one of the most neglected natural resources in the region–the ballpark’s site dictated much of its sustainable design attributes to help minimize further pollution of the site and its surroundings.

The area is characterized by large public and subsidized housing complexes and relatively small portions of retail and commercial space. Parking near the ballpark is limited–not only to encourage the use of public transportation, but also to avoid the blight of surface parking, and to enable a more pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. As a planned anchor for millions of dollars of mixed-use development in the area, Nationals Park’s design incorporated sidewalks, open spaces, plazas and retail frontage.

The previous inhabitants were low-density warehouses, an asphalt plant with its by-products and light industrial businesses, as well as a trash-transfer station. The ballpark was enrolled in the District of Columbia’s Voluntary Clean-Up Program, and, as such, the site’s 18.76 acres are in better condition environmentally than before its development. Additionally, the ground-water and storm-water systems put in place by this project are expected to provide continuous environmental remediation for the lifespan of the facility.

“At the onset of the ballpark’s design, there were no green-certified sports facilities in the United States,” says Joe Spear, FAIA, Senior Principal at HOK Sport, the architecture firm that designed the ballpark. “And because most green-design rating systems are designed for offices and schools, we truly had no model to follow. It was an interesting design challenge, but by creating strong buy-in from all parties, we were able to create a one-of-a-kind green ballpark.”

Given the ballpark’s site near the river, the team’s main sustainable design strategies were to mitigate the construction process impact on the environment, to protect the natural resources, and to produce a facility that offered a measurable improvement in building performance.

To start the process, the sustainable team (the owner, user, contractor and design team) initially scored the building for a number of credits the facility could achieve, and then priced the credits prioritized by each stakeholder group to determine if these credits fit within the budget. This scorecard became the basis of implementation, which had to be reviewed and monitored through a number of parties to ensure that every team member was working toward the goal of a sustainable ballpark. During weekly progress review meetings with the stakeholder group, an update was given for each credit and where it stood in the documentation process. One of the biggest challenges was keeping the targeted credits within the budget and on track within a tight, fast-paced construction schedule.

Each representative of the sustainable team focused on a key component to champion in order to reach the project goal.

“Having everyone on board and working toward the same goal was perhaps the project’s largest success, given the challenges of a limited construction budget and a shortened construction schedule,” says Spear.

For sustainable elements that did not fit into the budget, the team looked to private sources for some funding. For instance, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation provided $100,000 for a 6,300-square-foot green roof above a concession/restroom area near the outfield.

Because all credits were submitted electronically, the entire sustainable team had real-time access to the LEED-credit submission process online. In total, the team amassed 34 points for a LEED Silver rating, including such sustainable design elements as:

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