Case Study: NHL Penguins Take the LEEDJune 28, 2012
Paul Bush, PPG Industries, Inc.
In fall 2012, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ new home, Consol Energy Center, became the first National Hockey League (NHL) arena to earn LEED Gold certification from the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). (Established in 2008, GBCI is a Washington, DC-based third-party organization allied with the USGBC that provides independent oversight of professional credentialing and technical review and verification of individual LEED project certifications.) The achievement was the culmination of a well-coordinated effort involving team management, the architect, engineers and construction professionals, as well as the expertise and products of several Pittsburgh companies. LEED certification was important to the owners, so the ability to source many of the products and services locally was an extra incentive.
The green objective focused on obtaining LEED Gold certification, which requires at least 39 points on the USGBC’s LEED scale.
A Landmark Glass Façade
The signature element of Consol Energy Center is a soaring six-level atrium with a massive glass façade that undulates to emulate the flow of the city’s three rivers and a wide, open concourse that provides views of both the city and the ice rink. The goal was to create a space that was not only attractive and inspiring but was also environmentally friendly.
“Glass helps in both aspects. It offers great views of the city skyline, and the products we selected help with energy performance,” noted a project architect.
To balance the need for light, views and thermal performance, architects specified PPG’s Solarban z50 glass. This product combines a subtle, steel-blue-gray tint with excellent solar control performance and high visible light transmittance, which combine to let light penetrate far into the arena, maximizing the façade’s aesthetic and environmental advantages.
Contributing to the construction challenge was the site itself, which features a precipitous change in elevation from north to south. This required cutting the building into bedrock at the north end of the site and drilling piers through almost 30 feet of unconsolidated fill at the opposite end. This orientation of the building site, together with the350-pound weight of the 12-by-4-foot one-inch insulating glass units, made installation difficult. Workers had to install large glass panels in the curtain wall structure that follows the same serpentine shape as the building façade while going up a steep hill. The curtain wall featured multiple curves and radii, requiring several on-the-fly adjustments to the project drawings.
Hat Trick for All Stakeholders
As a result of its environmental attributes and the contributions of local manufacturers and contractors, Consol Energy Center was able to garner 42 LEED points, three above the LEED Gold standard. This score included nine for indoor environmental quality, eight for energy and atmosphere and seven for locally sourced materials.
Cooperation among all the stakeholders was the key to achieving their bold ambition, according to Catherine Sheane, Sustainability Design Manager for Astorino, the Pittsburgh architectural, engineering and interior design practice hired to help the building reach its green objectives. “Without the dedication and integration of all project team members, including the owner, developer, construction manager and subcontractors, this project would never have exceeded its original goals for LEED certification,” she said. “Early decision-making and buy-in on the sustainable design and construction components truly facilitated the follow-up and documentation. It’s exactly the way a green building should work.”