The joke that Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay tells is that, at some point during the construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Arthur Blank declared that he wanted the Falcons’ 2-million-square-foot new home to be designated as LEED Platinum. LEED is short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and each eco-friendly thing a developer does during construction earns the building points. How many points your project gets determines if it’s merely “LEED-certified,” or if it’s crowned silver or gold. “LEED Platinum” is the highest designation, and no sports facility in the world had ever earned it.
Why not? It’s expensive. Today, though, Blank announced that the U.S. Green Buildings Council had awarded 88 points to the stadium, eight points above the threshold that puts the facility in the platinum category.
“Sometimes as a leader I’ve been known to be irrational,” Blank said at a press conference today. When he requested Mercedes-Benz Stadium be LEED Platinum, he recalled, “there was complete silence. Now sometimes silence, in a legal sense, can be construed as assent. In management, though, it could mean you’ve gone out of your mind.”
The pricetag for the $1.5 billion stadium famously crept up in $100 million increments over the course of its 3-plus year construction, no doubt due in part to the innovations, big and small, that Blank knew would win them points toward LEED Platinum. Some of the highlights:
- A 680,000-gallon underground cistern (beneath MLK Drive, actually) collects rainwater that is repurposed not just for irrigation, but to help run the stadium’s massive cooling towers. (Also, Trees Atlanta has access to the cistern to water its trees.) There’s also a stormwater vault that can hold 1.2 million gallons. The idea is to also reduce stormwater runoff and flooding in the neighborhoods to the west of the stadium.
- LED lighting over the entire stadium cuts the energy bill by 60 percent.
- The retractable roof meant builders couldn’t install solar panels way up high, so instead they put 4,000 panels elsewhere, including on top of a parking deck just off the entrance.
- Initial plans for the stadium, years ago, called for the windows to open. Designers abandoned that idea, as it would have created heat gains throughout the interior. Instead, fritting on the glass helps keep the heat out and the cool in.
- When the Georgia Dome is imploded on Monday, 13 acres will be turned into a park. (A hotel will also be going up nearby.)
- The stadium’s proximity to MARTA also earned it points. According to the Falcons, 25 percent of fans take public transportation to games, a higher percentage than any other NFL franchise.