Monday, February 04, 2008

National Stadium Whitewash

Irresponsibly placed baseball stadium
in D.C. South Capitol Mall space
touted in Washington Post letter as a "green building"
Telling a Green Ballpark's Story
Sunday, February 3, 2008; Page B08

This spring, will baseball fans leave the Washington Nationals' new stadium -- the first "green" major league ballpark -- with a new environmental awareness to go with peanuts and statistics about their favorite players?

If not, Nationals Park may end up as a muted tribute to the far-thinking D.C. Council, which has legislated that all new large construction in Washington, such as office buildings and shopping centers, be built according to green standards -- reducing their impact on the environment.

While the stadium is a hit toward the goal of a newer, greener Washington, city officials have dropped the ball by not stirring up interest in green building through educational outreach programs. Part of the problem is that the green building standards mandated by the D.C. Council and created by the U.S. Green Building Council make education only optional. This is a serious mistake, because the ballpark can hold 41,000 people at a time.

Last summer, during an internship in Washington, I conducted a survey on people's awareness of green buildings in the District. Nearly 75 percent of the Washingtonians I surveyed could not identify a green building within their community. The few who could were predominantly white and college-educated. Yet 95 percent of respondents said they were interested in learning more about green building. These results indicate that the public need for education on green buildings is unmet.

Without knowing where green buildings are and how they help, the public won't be able to contribute to the growth of Washington's green building market. Nationals Park could become a modern day "Field of Dreams" that draws the public into the wonder of green building and furthers the goals of Washington's new green building policy: "To become an environmental leader."

Just imagine the shift in consciousness if the public were given a chance to learn about green building technology through an interactive "Environmental Learning Center" at the ballpark. Fans could learn about the stadium's high-tech groundwater and stormwater filtration system, which surrounds the park to purify water before it reenters the Anacostia River watershed. Through other green technologies, water consumption will be reduced by 37 percent, saving more than 3.6 million gallons per year. Energy consumption will be reduced by 21 percent through the use of energy-efficient field lighting, and through the construction of a 6,300 square-foot green roof covered with plants to provide increased roof insulation.

While the architects promise an educational component, current plans suggest only the use of signage and green tours. Will Washington officials hit a grand slam by combining a state-of-the-art green building with quality green education? If yes, then this field of dreams truly would be green.

-- Annette Bellafiore

New Haven, Conn.

The writer wrote her master's thesis on green building in Washington and was an intern at the U.S. Green Building Council last summer.

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