The GSB Interview: Summer Minchew, Making Sports Venues Greener and More Fan-Friendly

Summer Minchew, Managing Partner of Ecoimpact Consulting, has worked on several stadium and arena projects, helping them through the LEED certification process and much more.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with Minchew about Ecoimpact Consulting’s innovative approach to sustainability that combines environment and efficiency with human health and wellness.

 

GreenSportsBlog: How did you get in to the sports venue sustainability space?

Summer Minchew: Well, Lew, I’m a bit of a rarity in this business in that I have stadium design in my blood. I grew up in Kansas City and my dad happened to be a lead project sports architect…

GSB: No WAY!

Summer: Yes WAY!! My dad worked on the Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers; the AT&T Center, home of the San Antonio Spurs; and Bankers Life Arena, where the Indiana Pacers call home, along with many more. I grew up around sports architecture. Funny thing, though: I’m not a sports fan. But even as kid I loved drawing designs for buildings…

GSB: …Funny thing is, when I was a kid I used to draw stadiums. Only thing was, I had no drawing talent. You clearly had it. So what did you do?

Summer: I went to Kansas State in Manhattan…

GSB: Manhattan, Kansas, the “Little Apple.” I’ve never been.

 

summer minchew melissa key

Summer Minchew (Photo credit: Melissa Key)

 

Summer: It’s a great place. I went to the College of Architecture Planning and Design. During my college internships, I worked for a few of the sport architecture firms in Kansas City …

GSB: …Kansas City is basically the hub for sports architecture, right?

Summer: That’s right. So when I graduated from college I moved to Charlotte and worked for a firm that was the associate architect on the Spectrum Center, home of the NBA’s Hornets. This experience became my foundation in sports architecture. From there, I moved to working mostly on interiors for corporate office space.

GSB: What do you mean by “interiors”?

Summer: Interior architecture and design. I love its focus on how humans interact with a space and how that space impacts humans. Consider that Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. That connection is what drew me to sustainability: Green design is good design, it’s good for people, good for the planet.

GSB: That’s…good! What happened next?

Summer: I moved to Washington, D.C. in 2008 and worked for a firm called Envision Design, which has since merged with Perkins & Will. In 2006, the District passed the D.C. Green Building Act — all new non-residential public buildings were now required to pursue LEED certification. I was in the right city at the right time — and fortunately my mentors already had incredible sustainability ethos’, so it was a great place to be. One of my favorite projects while I was in D.C. was working on the design team for the US Green Building Council’s headquarters. Not surprisingly they wanted their space to be LEED Platinum. It was so great working on a project where the sustainability charge was client and mission driven, it really pushed the team to maximize the project’s performance. This was a phenomenal experience.

 

USGBC HQ Eric Laignel

Interior shot of US Green Building Council’s Washington, D.C. LEED Platinum-certified headquarters (Photo credit: Eric Laignel)

 

GSB: Sounds amazing. What did you do with that experience?

Summer: Having discovered my love for, and gaining expertise in the green building certification process, I began working with Ecoimpact Consulting in 2010. Quickly I came to manage all of the firm’s green building certification projects.

I worked with Penny Bonda, one of the firm’s founders, and eventually became her partner. She is truly incredible, an active participant in the green building industry since its very early stages. Penny pioneered the development of the LEED for Commercial Interiors rating system and co-authored Sustainable Commercial Interiors. I was contributing author on the second edition of the same book, published by Wiley and Sons in 2014. Penny retired in 2017 — but still serves as a trusted advisor to the firm.

GSB: Sounds like you and Penny were — and still are — a great team. What does Ecoimpact Consulting do?

Summer: The bulk of our work is management for green building project certifications, often supplementing a project team that needs to bolster their expertise in LEED.

From a LEED perspective, a sports venue can be a challenging building type. The prescriptive requirements in the LEED rating system can be difficult to adapt to sports projects, especially open-air venues.

GSB: What are prescriptive requirements?

Summer: With venues you have fluctuating operating hours and occupant densities, untraditional floor plans and less defined indoor and outdoor spaces than other building types. You have to know the rating system well in order to interpret the requirements and make sure you are meeting your intended goals. But it can also present some great opportunities to push the envelope and I’ll tell you, the challenge is worth it.

I don’t need to tell your readers that sports architecture is a very high-profile building type. Venues are meant to draw attention, attract fans and create a sense of place. Stadiums and arenas are more than just buildings, they are the physical embodiment of the brand. Increasingly the brand is not only about the league and the franchise but also about sustainability, community outreach, social and economic responsibility; and these building types have an amazing platform to reflect those values.

You can see the immediate impact in outcomes like a LEED certification and then hopefully a ripple effect in the influence of sustainable design and operations choices. I love the work!

GSB: Sounds like it. When you look at sports venues from human and sustainability perspective, what are you looking for?

Summer: We look at sustainable strategies not only from an efficiency perspective but also from human health and wellness points of view. For example, a venue with access to public transit not only reduces transit related greenhouse gas emissions and hardscape related heat island and stormwater management issues, it provides fans with increased opportunities to be physically active and better air quality for the surrounding neighborhoods. Access to natural light not only reduces overhead lighting costs but studies also show that access to daylight and views in the built environment positively impacts the health and productivity of building occupants. You get the idea. In any building, and sports venues are no exception, one of the most critical measures of building performance is occupant satisfaction.

GSB: No doubt about it. While you are a LEED AP and have been talking about LEED, it sure sounds like your work is more focused on the WELL standard.

Summer: Not necessarily. If you look at the point allocation of LEED, credits related to climate change represent the largest percentage of available points but coming in at a close second are credits related to human health. LEED does not simply evaluate energy, water and waste reduction, an integral component is the indoor environment including occupant comfort. WELL takes the human health and wellbeing baton to the next level, focusing on nutrition, fitness, mood and even sleep patterns of building occupants…

GSB: So it sounds like your work takes into account LEED, along with using WELL-type principles. Can you give an example of a stadium or arena project that is an example of the Ecoimpact Consulting approach?

Summer: We served as sustainability consultant on Audi Field, the home of D.C. United of Major League Soccer that opened last summer. We worked with Michael Marshall Design, the associate architect for the project supporting Populous. It’s a great venue, from its location to its design, its energy efficiency, on-site renewables and operational waste reduction strategies. Audi Field sits on what was a brownfield site — it had been a scrapyard before. It’s in the Southwest Waterfront area of Washington, which is making a comeback, close to the D.C. Metro’s Green line.

 

Audi Field Ecoimpact

Exterior of Audi Field, home of D.C. United (Photo credit: Ecoimpact Consulting)

 

GSB: That’s right. Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals and the first LEED certified MLB stadium, is nearby and was an important anchor for the area’s revitalization. I haven’t been there yet but Audi Field is high up on my newly created Green-Sports Venue Bucket List. Talk more about Ecoimpact’s involvement with the project…

Summer: Well, we helped shepherd the project through LEED certification — Audi Field ultimately earned LEED Gold certification…

GSB: Congratulations!

Summer: Thank you. The project earned 64 points. One of the most visible sustainability features is their prominent bike valet which includes 190 spaces for cyclists. The team also found ways to dramatically reduce water use, ultimately achieving reductions in the 40 percent range. Another focus for D.C. United was on community benefits.

GSB: What do you mean by community benefits?

Summer: There are significant opportunities to promote socially responsible practices in the design, construction and operation of buildings. Engaging in labor agreements will help to ensure that construction workers are paid prevailing wages and are provided workforce development opportunities. Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) help to ensure that the needs of the surrounding community are being met. And of course, these types of considerations can help a project achieve LEED points as well.

For D.C. United it meant looking at the stadium design, construction and operations through the lens of social equity in the local community…or, put another way, by linking up the stadium project with the needs of the community. D.C. United developed a CBA that lays the groundwork for a lasting relationship between the team and the residents of the neighboring community. In addition to their youth programs; a successful soccer club and scholarship program for D.C. United summer camps, D.C. United will connect the new stadium to the community by making the facility and meeting rooms available for community use, participating in a summer job program, and engaging in local outreach for employment. In the end, adhering to the CBA enhances the club’s brand.

GSB: It’s almost like D.C. United is mirroring the neighborhood approach of English soccer clubs, as well as those from other European countries. By that I mean that, soccer fans across the pond are often tied to the teams of their local neighborhood and vice versa. Smart.

Summer: Smart indeed. D.C. United gets it. Another sports venue project that is serious about social equity, just across the Anacostia River in the Southeast section of D.C., is the Washington D.C. Entertainment & Sports Arena developed by Events DC and Monumental Sports & Entertainment. The new, 4,200-seat home of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, Capital City Go-Go of the NBA’s developmental G League, and the training center for the NBA’s Washington Wizards sits on the revitalized St. Elizabeths East campus. Similar to Audi Field, we worked with the associate architect, Michael Marshall Design, in support of Rossetti, the lead architect to manage the LEED certification process — the final certification from USGBC is still being finalized at this point but Silver is anticipated.

The project features green roof areas, onsite stormwater retention systems and energy efficient systems. And, like Audi Field, this project has a great community outreach and engagement story. Events DC developed a CBA in partnership with neighboring residents that supports educational opportunities for youth, creates local business opportunities, and creates community enrichment activities. Touted by D.C. officials as “bigger than basketball” the project is estimated to generate 300 permanent and 600 construction jobs, and is part of an ongoing redevelopment that will transform the 180-acre St. Elizabeths campus into a thriving mixed-use community.

 

Washington Sports & Ent Arena Kelly Soong

Washington D.C. Entertainment & Sports Arena (Photo credit: Kelly Soong)

 

GSB: Very cool, Summer. I guess I need to add the D.C. E&SA to my bucket list, too!

 

 

¹ RISE = Resources to Inspire Students and Educators

 


 

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NBA and WNBA March in NYC Gay Pride Parade; GSB Imagines When Leagues March for Climate, Science

The NBA and WNBA, for the second consecutive year, sponsored a float in the Gay Pride Parade in New York City. When will the NBA and WNBA — and, for that matter, other sports leagues, have floats and/or some other sort of presence at a climate change and/or science march? GreenSportsBlog imagines such a future.

 

North American sports leagues and teams have, for the most part, shied away from taking overtly public stands on issues of the day, even ones that have broad public support.

When asked by GreenSportsBlog, not one North American professional sports league would comment on President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. We asked executives at Major League Baseball, NBA, NFL and the NHL and all either said “no comment” or declined to respond at all. This, despite survey data from the Huffington Post/YouGov poll showing that 61 percent of Americans support staying in Paris.

So I was very happy to see that the NBA and WNBA co-sponsored a float in last Sunday’s Pride Parade in New York City for the second straight year. Commissioners Adam Silver and Lisa Borders were on board, enjoying the day, waving and throwing balled-up, NBA- and WNBA-branded towels to the crowd, estimated to be in the one million range. 

Media recognized that this was a BIG DEAL: The New York Times gave it front page-of-the-sports section treatment. Bleacher Report, the New York Daily News and numerous other outlets covered it as well.

So that got me to thinking: What if the NBA, WNBA and the other sports leagues that are aggressively greening and use science in every aspect of their operations, including to abet their sustainability efforts, had decided to lend similar support to the April 22nd March for Science and the People’s Climate March a week later?  

So that got me to conjuring a series of conversations that imagined Mr. Silver, Ms. Borders, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, ESPN’s John Brenkus and others having participated in one or both marches.

 

APRIL 30, 2017, Edmonton, Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

For the second consecutive Saturday, hundreds of thousands of protesters marched on Washington, D.C., New York City and other cities throughout the United States, Canada and beyond.

Yesterday, the People’s Climate March took center stage, with an estimated 300,000 Americans taking to the streets to advocate for meaningful climate action, along with clean energy jobs, and against the Trump administration’s anti-environmental and anti-climate executive actions and plans. Only a week earlier, on Earth Day, 1.3 million people marched in the U.S and beyond to defend the role of science — including climate science— in policy and society through the March for Science.

That many marchers took part in both events is no surprise as the climate change fight and many aspects of science are under attack from the Trump Administration and many of its supporters.

What may have surprised many is that the NBA and WNBA, along with Major League Baseball, ESPN, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer all participated in both marches. The NFL sent representatives to the March for Science but chose not to take part in The People’s Climate March, citing a conflict with Day 3 of its annual draft. They did release a vague statement that supported “the goals of the Climate March.”

Politics averse sports leagues, participating in marches? What the heck is happening?

“The NBA, its teams, players and staff are not averse to politics,” asserted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “That’s a myth. Because we in the NBA are U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, we encourage our players, coaches and staff to voice their opinions. And they have, on a wide range of relevant issues, including on science and climate change. And, when we believe something is important, we march!”

The marches supporting science and the climate change fight must be very important to Silver and the NBA since they took place at the beginning of the playoffs, the most highly-watched games of the season.

Thus some fans—and not only those in the anti-science, climate-skeptical corners of the political spectrum—might question why the NBA marched the last two Saturdays while playoff games were being played.

To Commissioner Silver, they need not wonder at all: “First of all, we can walk-march and chew gum—i.e. play playoff games—at the same time. That’s why we joined the People’s Climate March today. And then tomorrow I will be in Boston for Game 1 of the Celtics-Wizards series. Science is intrinsic to the entire operation of NBA basketball, from state-of-the-art training centers and arenas to advanced nutrition to advanced statistical metrics to equipment. On climate change, my predecessor, David Stern, said in 2013, that ‘climate change is just about number one on [our agenda for] the future of the planet.’ At the same time, we invited Congress to promote effective standards and incentives designed to help our nation mobilize in time and at the scale needed to address the risks of climate change…The logical place to start is with standards to reduce the carbon pollution from electric power plants, the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution. The environmental executive actions and policy plans of the current administration in Washington show they are moving in the opposite direction. So here we are.”

This isn’t the first time professional basketball has played a significant role in a political march. As WNBA commissioner Lisa Borders noted, “last June, the NBA and WNBA became the first sports leagues to have a float in a parade when we took part in New York City’s annual Pride Parade. In fact, Adam (Silver) and I walked alongside and on the float. It was fantastic. And I have to tell you, I got a similar feeling at the March for Science and The People’s Climate March. Both were great.”

 

NBA Float

WNBA legend Sue Wicks, WNBA commissioner Lisa Borders, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and former NBA player Jason Collins on NBA float at the 2016 Pride Parade in New York City (Photo credit: Outsports)

 

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, who took part in New York City’s March for Science with a group of staffers, interns and fans, before heading out to Citi Field for the late afternoon Nationals-Mets contest, likened investments in science to a team’s investments in its farm systems. “We cannot attack science. Just the opposite: we need to fund science consistently and aggressively; that way society can absorb the occasional failure with the fruits of science’s many successes” said Mr. Manfred, “Just like when MLB clubs aggressively and consistently invest in their farm system, the odds are the successes are going to far outweigh the failures.”

John Brenkus, host of ESPN’s popular Sport Science series, joined by thousands of fellow travelers in the Los Angeles People’s Climate March, offered that “Our show is really about the physics of sports—the exit velocity of an Aaron Judge home run, measuring the agility of Jacksonville Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette, that sort of thing. Well, climate change is ultimately about physics—how the emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses by humans impact the climate. The physics is clear and is not in humanity’s favor right now unless we make changes towards cleaner energy.”

 

John Brenkus

John Brenkus, host of ESPN’s Sport Science. (Photo credit: Sport Techie)

 

Ex-Boston Bruin and Edmonton Oiler, and current cleantech/green agriculture venture capitalist Andrew Ference, joined a gaggle of hearty Edmontonians at the Alberta city’s cold but friendly People’s Climate March. Not surprisingly from someone who is betting on green businesses, Ference was bullish about the climate change fight in general and the power of athletes to help: “There are athletes who do get it and want to lead, whether they are on field/on ice superstars. We need to provide them with the education and tools they need to engage teammates, sponsors, and fans.”

Leave it to NBA Hall of Famer, announcer, Grateful Deadhead, and environmentalist Bill Walton, who walked in both marches in San Diego, to provide the exclamation point on the intersection between sports, science and climate change: “When I was marching through the glorious streets of San Diego the last two Saturdays, I saw the hope of mankind displayed as many thousands supported scientists and then climate change. As (legendary UCLA basketball) Coach (John) Wooden often said ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’ Well these marchers showed they are preparing to fight for science, for curiosity, for learning and for the planet. They are preparing to succeed, no matter what goes on in Washington. Live Green or Die, man!”

 

Walton

Bill “Live Free or Die” Walton (Photo credit: Awful Announcing)

 

Have a great Independence Day weekend. GreenSportsBlog is taking the week off—unless there is breaking Green-Sports news. Then we will be there to cover it.

 


 

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