Sustainable Sports design

The Future of sustainability

HOK’s Chris DeVolder says design strategies for the high-performance sports venues of the future will be based on these ideas


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Abundance, not scarcity, is the lens for all design decisions. The venue harvests water, creates energy, turns waste into food, enhances the habitat and adds value for the surrounding community and the owner. Decisions support the common good of the community, not just a standalone project.

Projects feature mixed-use programming that creates an active, engaging venue seven days a week. The space synergies include sports, recreation, entertainment, transportation, food, healthcare, retail, hospitality, conferencing, urban farming, housing and education.

The design creates multiple solutions. A canopy that provides shade for daily activities and game-day parking, for example, has a roof structure with solar panels that generate energy for the building and cars parked beneath.

The canopy also directs rainwater into cisterns for reuse in the building, site and community. The venue is the focal point of an eco-district, where resources are shared among facilities. Excess heat from equipment in an arena, for example, is used to heat water at an adjacent hotel.

The venue serves as an anchor for a co-op approach to the purchase of sustainable goods and services. It may bring together a ballpark, local school district, hospital system and retail centre, for example, to pool the buying power for green products, renewable energy, commercial composting and local food.

Biomimicry influences how the design responds to the local climate, allowing the building to breathe, provide comfort for every human sense and adapt to year-round requirements.

The site’s biodiversity is enhanced through local or adaptive landscaping, edibles and the tree canopy.

The venue generates all its own energy through solar panels, wind turbines or other renewable energy solutions.

Future venues will be net positive when it comes to stormwater, accepting more water than they create, cleaning it naturally and reusing it.

With its mass appeal and ability to unite people worldwide, sport offers a powerful platform for demonstrating and communicating the importance of sustainability.

By establishing new paradigms for environmentally friendly design and acting as a hub for related sustainable development, sports venues can become critical assets for an individual location, a community and a region.

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