How Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium helps combat the city's flood problems
By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
January 30, 2019, 5:59:17 PM EST
When the stakeholders involved in the construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) came up with the initial conception of the venue, they knew they wanted a state-of-art-facility not only for sporting events, but for the environment as well.
The stadium, home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United FC, opened in August 2017 as North America’s first LEED platinum venue.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USBGC).
According to the USBGC’s LEED rating system, MBS accumulated 88 out of a maximum 100 points on the rating system, the highest ever for a sports venue.
A significant component of the facility’s sustainability initiatives include water conservation, with a focus on reducing the amount of flooding in its neighborhood in northwestern Atlanta.
The stadium has a capacity to store over 2 million gallons of storm water on site. The facility is equipped with a 680,000-gallon cistern for rainwater recapture and reuse, which goes towards landscape irrigation and the site’s cooling tower.
“What’s most important about the storm water being in the heart of Atlanta is it's doing our part to mitigate flood potentials in the neighborhood just to the west of us here,” Mercedes-Benz Stadium General Manager Scott Jenkins said.
"LEED matters because when you build such an iconic piece of architecture, it's also a way to lead environmentally and make it environmentally responsible and friendly," he said.
The stadium is located at the top of the Proctor Creek Watershed, historically known for flooding during heavy rain events. As they came up with the innovative design, Falcons officials, along with the architectural firm HOK, made it a point that helping to reduce the amount of flooding would be a key component of this massive structure.
As part of its advanced storm water management system, several bioswales were instituted to help improve the water quality and serve as an alternative to storm sewers.
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The facility has partnered with Trees Atlanta, a non-profit that works to protect green space areas and conserve existing trees around the city. The recaptured rainwater is used towards planting and maintaining trees in the city’s urban core.
“Having the Mercedes Benz Stadium so close and accessible to such a large abundance of our tree plantings allows us to not only save time, but to also save on the need to use city-permitted fire hydrants.,” Alex Beasley, donor and public relations manager for Trees Atlanta told AccuWeather in an email. “It seems like a distant dream with the wet year we've had, but think back to the past few summers, which have been incredibly dry. When every drop counts, it's nice to be able to have access to recycled water, which otherwise would go into our sewers.”
Beasley said Trees Atlanta’s Urban Forestry Crew and NeighborWoods community forestry teams were granted pro bono access by Mercedes-Benz management officials to withdraw captured rainwater from a number of construction sites for use on roughly 15,000 trees spread throughout the Atlanta metro area.
The maintenance of trees requires roughly 535,000 gallons of water, of which 300,000 gallons is recycled rainwater through numerous sites around Atlanta. This usually entails watering and ensuring that trees have ample mulch covering the critical root zone of a newly planted tree, which acts as an insulator for temperature and moisture.
“Generally, we are able to water each tree weekly and we're usually on top of the weather, so we will track how much rain a general area and corresponding trees are getting. This helps us decide if we can space out our watering so that other tasks can be accomplished,” Beasley said.
Since 1985, Trees Atlanta has planted over 130,000 trees, and it's their goal to plant 200,000 by 2030, according to Beasley.
Prior to opening, the stadium was recognized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for its commitment to sustainability and climate-friendly capabilities.
The venue's sustainability features go beyond water efficiency. To help reduce vehicle emissions, the stadium was built near multiple public rail lines and is equipped with electric vehicle charging stations.
It relies heavily on renewable energy and efficient lighting. Over 4,000 solar panels help power the structure while its LED lighting lasts 10 times longer than standard lights, which reduce energy usage by as much as 60 percent.
“We set out to build a venue that would not only exceed expectations, but also push the limits of what was possible in terms of stadium design, fan experience and sustainability,” Falcons and Atlanta United Owner and Chairman Arthur Blank said in a statement. “We set a goal of achieving the highest LEED rating because it was the right thing to do for our city and the environment and with this achievement, we have a powerful new platform to showcase to the industry and to our fans that building sustainably and responsibly is possible for a venue of any type, size and scale.”
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