By Kristen Fulmer
In recent months, COVID-19 has amplified the importance of air and water quality, effective communications and signage, equitable design and many other critical facets of the healthy buildings movement. The larger ‘sustainable design’ industry has leveraged this momentum and has begun to address healthy, safe, and sustainable strategies for the reopening of buildings that have been temporarily closed.
As research emerges and procedures evolve from recommendations to mandatory protocol, the green buildings movement is working in real time to validate that the protocol is healthy for all building occupants and will remain applicable to future-proof the operational resiliency, while promoting sustainable best practices.
The drive to reopen spans all industries and though the reopening of office, dining, and retail space has been a primary focus, the sports industry is also hard at work. As one of the last public spaces to reopen, these venues, arenas and stadiums have tremendous opportunity to leverage the #BuildBackBetter movement, integrating safe, resilient, and sustainable strategies into an enjoyable re-welcoming of fans back to stadiums. Of course, the balance to guarantee safety and health, including security, sustainability, and ease of enjoyment is not a simple task.
Historically, sustainability professionals have been advocates for the integration of healthy, sustainable strategies in building design, construction, and operations. A subset of those subject matter experts have been largely focused on the sports greening movement, which is the intersection between sustainable buildings, sustainable events, and the powerful platform of the sports industry. The Green Sports Alliance (GSA) is one of the largest networks of professional and collegiate-minded sports organizations, sustainable vendors, and sustainability professionals and has recently been heavily focused on supporting their members to reopen safely and sustainably.
In early June 2020, the GSA partnered with USGBC’s Arc’s Re-Entry Platform, as an effort to provide their members with an actionable tool to consolidate best practices and track industry movement towards them. Following the announcement of the partnership, the Green Sports Alliance sourced a team of experts within their network to form a “Ready to Play” Working Group. In the last two months, the select collection of venue operation managers, green sports consultants, and various subject matter experts, worked diligently to tailor the Arc Re-Entry Toolkit into a Playbook of best practices, recommendations, references, and standards for the sports industry.
As a contributing member to the ‘Ready to Play’ Working Group, our group discussed nuances and unique qualities of the sports industry, shared resources that we had seen that may be applicable to reopening sports, and split into groups to address the three pillars of Arc Re-Entry, including Facility Management, Occupant Experience, and Indoor Air Quality.
Some critical takeaways in applying Arc Re-Entry to the sports industry include:
- While live sports continue to be paused, the larger sports industry has a tremendous opportunity to reopen safely while promoting environmental sustainability, social equity, and the other critical components of a sustainable building. The ‘Ready to Play’ Working Group discussed this opportunity to #BuildBackBetter at length, and approached the collection of recommendations with the interest of integrating all facets of sustainability into the reopening plan. This is evident in the framework of the Playbook, which is designed to address holistic implications of the virus.
- Unlike other more standard real estate typologies, each sports venue is uniquely designed. Some are indoors and some are open-air; some were built to accommodate large seated crowds and others are built to facilitate more active participation; some are home to professional sports that have much higher operational budgets than others; and of course, each venue is part of a larger community, which has experienced COVID-19 quite differently. To ensure that the ‘Ready to Play’ Playbook was inclusive of all live stadium types, the ‘Ready to Play’ Working Group collected a variety of applicable resources and best practices and included notes to support GSA’s full network of members.
- The return of live sports will probably be phased to reduce the concentration of crowds. The team assumed that the stadium will not be sold out the first day it is open, but will instead increase the sale of tickets over time, to ensure a safe and enjoyable return of fans. To support event teams’ comprehensive roll-out, the ‘Ready to Play’ Working Group addressed strategies that could evolve over time, including facility management best practices and policy updates, periodic air quality testing protocol, and recommendations for addressing occupant feedback.
Last week, Green Sports Alliance released the first version of the ‘Ready to Play’ Playbook. Over time, the Working Group will continue to iterate this Playbook to accommodate the additional research that will emerge about the virus generally, and will integrate lessons learned and case studies from live events that have since opened to the public.
The ‘Ready to Play’ Playbook provides a framework that is complementary to a variety of other tools, standards, and set of recommendations. Other valuable resources include the Sustainable Sport Research Collective’s ‘The Sustainable Sport Agenda: Opportunities for the Sports Industry to #BuildBackBetter’, Oceanic Global’s COVID-19 Guidelines; and other third-party validation tools, including IWBI’s WELL Health & Safety Rating and ISSA’s GBAC Star Certification.
Kristen Fulmer, Founder of Recipric, is a sustainability expert, focused on maximizing performance and promoting occupant health and wellbeing within the built environment. At Recipric, she applies this passion to the sports industry, integrating holistic sustainability strategy into sports organizations and their brand partners to ensure measurable, impactful positive impact.