Heeding LEED: ESPN Expansion Puts Focus on Environment

Special to SVG by John Cistulli, ESPN, senior director of Global Construction and Facilities Engineering

In recent years, sustainability and energy efficiency have made the move from “nice if you can do it” to must-have and even mandated on building projects of all sizes and shapes. The ripple effect on sports broadcasting has been huge: arenas and stadiums have become more green, in turn causing TV compounds to become more green. And then there is the impact on the major broadcast plants and facilities that TV sports networks call home from coast to coast.

Here at ESPN, for example, three high-profile construction projects are not only improving the way ESPN looks on-air and crews work behind the scenes but also minimizing the impact its operations have on the environment.

Most of the efforts related to more-sustainable construction have to do with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a system of ratings for design, construction, operation, and maintenance developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). From 1994 to 2006, LEED grew from one standard for new construction to a comprehensive system of interrelated standards covering all aspects of development and construction. LEED also has grown from six volunteers on one committee to more than 200 volunteers on nearly 20 committees and nearly 150 professional staffers.

Digital Center 2
Launched last year, ESPN’s Digital Center 2, a world-class television-production facility, integrated sustainable-design and energy-efficiency objectives alongside cutting-edge technical sophistication. The four-story facility has two floors of technical production and studio space and two housing the mission-critical electrical and cooling plants for the facility. Measuring 194,000 sq. ft., the building has a USGBC LEED NC 2.2 target of Certified.

Getting to that point required a vast amount of teamwork between seemingly disparate stakeholders. ESPN Global Construction & Facilities Engineering collaborated with colleagues in the Safety & Sustainability group to assemble a diverse group of senior-level stakeholders who had the compassion expected for this complicated project and the necessary authority to make the hard decisions when required. And the design team, led by New York City-based HLW International, was given the task of leading both the architectural and building-infrastructure design based on ESPN’s program requirements. Mission-critical electrical systems were designed by Facilities Engineering Associates of Farmington, CT, and the landscape architect was Sasaki Associates of Watertown, MA.

HLW, following ESPN’s directive, deployed high-efficiency electric water chillers with adaptive-frequency drives, super-premium–efficiency motors for all pumps and fans, and variable-frequency drives (VFDs) to control these motors. Direct digital control manages the HVAC sequence of operation, including carbon dioxide monitoring for demand-control ventilation.

Water efficiency was targeted by collecting air-handler condensate and site groundwater. This water (after chemical treatment) is used for cooling-tower make-up and toilet flushing, reducing dependency on potable water for these routine tasks.

The architects concentrated on the building-envelope materials, such as the high-reflectivity roof membrane to reduce the heat-island effect. High-R glazing used on the south and west facades of the building reduces thermal gain. The north and east facades were wrapped with a combination of insulated metal panels and cementitious fiberglass panels.

For the surrounding grounds, landscape designers selected hardy, native species, vital in meeting the goal of zero-potable-water use for irrigation.

The Bldg. 13 Project
Building 13 represents another environmental effort. The four-story, 136,000-sq.-ft. commercial building has significant square footage dedicated to technical operations: the first floor is designated for technical support for ESPN’s satellite-uplink operation, the remaining three to various other technical operations. The facility was with USGBC LEED 2.0 criteria as a guideline.

Having set the design bar at LEED Silver, the consultant team led by Fletcher-Thompson of Stamford, CT, struggled to meet USGBC standards while ensuring that the MEP/FP (mechanical, engineering and plumbing/fire-protection) systems met ESPN requirements for reliability and redundancy.

Building orientation and envelope materials were reviewed in detail to explore potential energy-saving opportunities. The building design incorporated high-R glazing, sun shelves on the south and west facades, interior sun shelves on the same elevations, reduced fenestration on the north and east facades, and a high-reflectivity roof membrane.

Automated controls manage the building climate and lighting systems, which provide daylight harvesting through the use of electronic dimming ballasts. High-efficiency electric water chillers form the backbone of the building cooling system. Waterless urinals reduce potable water use, and site irrigation is minimized by planting hardy, native species that require very little irrigation beyond natural rainfall.

The Fletcher-Thompson design team, ESPN stakeholders (including the Global Construction & Facilities Engineering and the Safety & Sustainability groups), and construction manager Associated Construction were rewarded for their combined efforts in June when the USGBC granted the Certified level to Bldg. 13 under LEED NC 2.0.

An Environmentally Sound ‘Family Unit’
The ESPN Child Care Center, a facility consisting of three “family-unit” buildings, comprising 38,270 sq. ft., and a multi-use building measuring 12,109 sq. ft. and housing a collegiate-size basketball court, locker facilities, and supporting mechanical space. The design team was led by The S/L/A/M Collaborative from Glastonbury, CT.

The ESPN Global Construction & Facilities Engineering team worked closely with our Disney colleagues and various ESPN stakeholders to establish design criteria based on LEED NC 2.2.

The selected site is a 12-acre parcel near the ESPN Main Campus. Careful consideration was given to maintaining an established watercourse through the site and using it as a teaching space for the children. Secure outdoor play areas, a nature walk, and an outdoor amphitheater were eventually worked into the final design.

The architects pursued daylight harvesting, cool-roof membrane, high-R glazing, Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber, and rainscreen building-envelope materials. Landscape designers focused on storm-water catchment areas with bio-filtration zones and zero-irrigation landscape materials.

MEP/FP engineers from Van Zelm Associates, Farmington, CT, directed the team on a number of ESPN-mandated initiatives, including occupancy sensors for interior light control, chilled-beam HVAC system, carbon dioxide sensors for demand-control ventilation, a 22-kW solar photovoltaic system, and a solar hot-water system.

The project is currently under review by the USGBC for a LEED NC 2.2 Gold award.

A lot of hard work on the part of a great many people has paid off with tremendous success. The sustainability and energy-efficiency goals established many years ago continue to pay dividends for ESPN, Walt Disney Co., and our local community. As a member of the global community, ESPN is keenly aware of our legacy, and it remains clear to all of us that our legacy proudly includes environmental responsibility.