Sport has long been a vehicle to promote change and progress in our societies. Today, sports stadiums and other major event venues are being used to promote progress toward net zero and and solve environmental issues.
There is huge potential for significant innovations to be discovered in energy efficiency and climate-friendly technologies through sport venues. Yet what prevents many of these facility managers and operators from reaching this potential is the absence of comprehensive understanding of how energy is used, where it is wasted, and how it can be used better. Above all, better energy usage translates to reduced carbon emissions.
Watford FC is taking major steps to address their facilities’ impacts on the environment. The club has partnered with ClearVUE on a multi-year plan to transform how the club’s home and training grounds consume energy. Together, Watford FC and ClearVUE will develop an energy sustainability and carbon reduction strategy that will become a carbon net zero template for other venues and facilities to follow.
We look at how Watford FC and other sport clubs around the world are discovering ways to their stadiums can reach net zero.
The potential for energy efficiency innovation in stadiums
Sports stadiums and venues consume significant amounts of energy when they are full operation. A study from Duke University found that the average professional sports stadium can use 5–10 MW of electricity during an event – enough to power 5,000 American homes. And as stadiums and events get bigger and bigger over time, power consumption and carbon emissions likewise increase.
Mega events are mega culprits of emitting huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, even when they are billed as “sustainable events.” The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, prior to taking place, were touted to be the most sustainable games ever hosted. However, research found that, despite the IOC implementing green initiatives into their games, the Olympics in general have become less sustainable over time since 1992. The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics were the third least sustainable Olympiad. Much of the emissions come during the construction phase of events like these.
Mega events like the Olympics, down to professional-level and even smaller sport venues provide unique platforms from which to promote sustainability and decarbonisation. As we will discover throughout this post, sports stadiums are operated more sustainably when they take advantage of their geographic surroundings and innovations in renewable technologies. In some cases, bigger is not always better, and so stadiums built at more reasonable sizes are better able to achieve more impressive energy efficiency and carbon reduction results
Examples of sustainable sports stadiums around the world
Watford FC have ambitions to be market leaders in terms of sustainability and achieving carbon net zero targets. Their vision to integrate sustainable features into its design for Vicarage Road – Watford FC’s home grounds – would put that stadium amongst a growing number of other sporting arenas worldwide that are doing the same.
Premier League rivals Tottenham are the greenest club in the Premier League. They achieved this by drastically reducing their carbon emissions, doing so using 100 percent certified renewable energy use and zero scope 2 emissions in their recently opened New Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium recycles 80 percent of match-day waste. All food waste is diverted to an anaerobic digestion plant.
Ajax’s Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam receives energy from over 4,200 roof-mounted solar panels and an off-site wind turbine.
Mercedes Benz Arena in Atlanta, Georgia has a water system that saves 47 percent of the liquids of the stadium in addition to 4,000 photovoltaic panels, allowing the stadium to save 29 percent of electricity.
The New York Yankees baseball organisation became the first North American sports team to join the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. The Yankees have several sustainability initiatives for their stadium, including high efficiency LED lighting, recycling and composting, mass transit, water conservation, and more.
Climate Pledge Arena – hosts to the NHL’s Seattle Kraken and the WNBA’s Seattle Storm – takes advantage of its rainy location on the inlet of Puget Sound. The stadium’s “Rain to Rink” system collects rainwater off of its roof and uses it to create the “greenest ice in the NHL.” Much of the stadium is powered by renewable energy systems.
Then there is Forest Green Rovers’ proposed venue: Eco Park. The stadium is anticipated to be one of the greenest sporting venues in the world. Eco Park will be made almost entirely from wood, offer electric vehicle and bike charging stations at the stadium, and receive around 500 planted trees and 1.8km of hedgerows around the site to promote biodiversity.
These are just a few examples of sustainable stadiums from around the world.
Qatar’s “dismountable” World Cup stadiums
The 2022 FIFA World Cup held in Qatar is another mega event that has been touted for its sustainability. The run-up to this World Cup has been controversial – namely for human rights abuses on workers preparing the venues. The said venues, however, are being built as “dismountable” stadiums, or ones that are built from recycled materials and which will be disassembled and used elsewhere following the tournament. It is a more viable solution than building mega stadiums costing taxpayers hundreds of millions only to then have those stadiums left partially or totally unused. These stadiums can still produce large amounts of operational emissions.
The preeminent example of Qatar’s dismountable stadium is Stadium 974. One of eight stadiums to host 32 countries in 64 total matches, Stadium 974 is named for the country’s dialling code and for the number of repurposed ocean shipping containers used to build it. The stadium is constructed in a modular design, with the intention that all of its parts can be taken down and reassembled for future uses.
Research conducted by the host country claims that the total life cycle emissions of a dismountable stadium like Stadium 974 is significantly less than those of a permanent stadium. To illustrate this case, Qatar compared the calculated life cycle emissions of its modular stadiums to those of four of its permanent stadiums. According to the research, the lifecycle emissions of modular stadiums is roughly 200,000 tCO2e less on average compared to permanent stadiums. Modular stadiums reduce significant amounts of carbon emissions thanks to shorter operating cycles. And though emissions created throughout the initial construction is higher than for permanent venues, far fewer emissions are projected to be produced during the reconstruction phase as a result of the stadium’s modular design.
Figure 4 from “Greenhouse Gas Emission Analysis of a Demountable FIFA World Cup Stadium”. PMS stands for Prototype Modular Stadium; PPS stands for Prototype Permanent Stadium. Case 1 is described as a single-use case of the stadium types. Cases 2 and 3 are described as multiple use-cases (multiple rebuilds) of the stadium types. Read the full analysis here.
Some of Qatar’s stadiums have earned recognition for their sustainability. However, critics have pushed back to Qatar’s reliance on fossil fuels to power air conditioning in the open-air stadiums.
Watford FC’s vision on sustainability
The club has big plans to make Vicarage Road, its training grounds, and several aspects of its operations more sustainable.
According to the club’s statement on sustainability, Watford FC will look towards:
Renewably-sourced electricity, contributions to the ‘Coolearth’ project, separated waste streams, recycling facilities at all sites and other matchday developments such as the use of reusable cups and lower-carbon / vegan options at kiosks and in hospitality areas are all examples of the Hornets’ ongoing commitment to improving its actions to support sustainability.
Several local projects launched by Watford FC’s Community Sports & Education Trust are also contributing positively, while on a larger scale planning permission is being sought for solar panels installation at its London Colney training ground as the club looks toward the longer-term with its commitments.
Plans are afoot to better bring to life the club’s sustainability work across its communication channels – including a dedicated section at watfordfc.com, containing the publication of a ‘Net Zero Road Map’.
Vicarage Road has been home for Watford FC since 1922. Watford has played at Vicarage Road since the stadium opened in 1922. The ground last underwent expansion in 2015.
Our partnership with Watford FC
ClearVUE, the carbon net zero consultancy and energy management technology company, will guide Watford FC for the next three years on their journey towards better energy usage and towards a net zero future.
The football club aims to be a leader in the drive to decarbonise and improve sustainability standards within the football industry. The club’s selection of ClearVUE as its partner in this drive is a powerful step forward to the club’s sustainability ambitions.
ClearVUE will conduct energy audits to help Watford FC understand its current performance. The consultancy and the club will collaborate together to develop and execute plans that deliver carbon reduction and overall better energy efficiency.
In working with ClearVUE, Watford FC will develop short and long-term targets on sustainability and carbon net zero and address all emissions from the club – including scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions.
The agreement includes net zero consultancy, energy awareness training and support on government legislation, as well as the installation of ClearVUE’s smart energy management systems at Vicarage Road Stadium and Watford FC Training Ground.
The ClearVUE.Zero team demonstrates the energy and carbon management platform to Watford FC executives and grounds managers.
Tackling the climate crisis, one play at a time
Sports venues have attracted investment and innovations in energy efficiency and renewable energy in recent years. However, it is often the case that facility managers are often unaware of their energy consumption levels, efficiency ratings, or potential savings. It is great to see new stadiums built in environmentally conscience ways and for existing stadiums to be retrofitted with energy efficiency and less pollution in mind. Yet if day-to-day operations within a stadium are not optimised for energy efficiency, then the goal of carbon reduction and energy cost savings are difficult to achieve.
We at ClearVUE are excited to join with Watford FC’s on their net zero journey. Together we have short- and long-term goals that will help the football club see through its net zero ambitions. We are eagerly looking forward to joining forces with other organisations to do the same. Our team of energy and sustainability experts along with our powerful ClearVUE.Zero carbon and energy management platform will help you take command of your environmental and energy efficiency goals.
Get in touch today to embark on your net zero journey. Give us a call (+44(0)3 300 300 200), or simply request a demo and we’ll be in touch.