A GREEN ARENA

We’ve been rolling around an idea in our brain for a few years now. It started as a “gee, this would be a good idea” concept and later involved doing some research with a local engineer to see if it had any legs. The latest stage has been whispering about it in conversation with some folk around town including our very own Jason Gregor.

Gregor texted us earlier today and said “I mentioned the arena idea you had on my show. Maybe you could take a break from your fan boy silence and grace us with your dream for a Green Arena. If you can find the time to stop kissing your Eberle picture that is.”

Very well Sir. Here goes.

We say that if a new arena has to be built, we don’t just build a snazzy new Rexall Place with wider concourses and additional seating. If public funds are going to be used as part of larger financing, it should create a legacy that benefits Oilers faithful and non hockey fans alike for decades to come.

Edmonton should build a Green Arena.

A GREEN WHAT?

Kick starting an alternative energy industry in Alberta is a concept that has been debated by private industry and Government for nearly at least a decade. But it is one of those chicken and egg scenarios – how do you invest money to build a wind farm or solar array if there is no guaranteed demand? Without alternative energy supply being built – what option do people have who are looking to ‘go green?’

Building a world class “Green Arena” and using it as a way to finally kick start an alternative energy industry in Alberta is an opportunity that is knocking at our door.

GREENWASHING AND BS

Many “eco-friendly projects” are little more than slapping a solar panel on a rainforest cutting facility and painting the doors an eco-friendly shade of green. There is little environmental benefit to doing it, but companies and politicians alike have a desire to jump on board the Green bandwagon even if it doesn’t really lessen the impact on ol’ Mother Earth.

This is called greenwashing and it eliminates the environmental benefits of proposed projects right out of the gate.

The biggest problem with alternative energy projects in Alberta – particularly the increasingly popular Geothermal loop – is that they greatly increase electrical consumption.

In Alberta, most of our electricity is generated using dirty ol’ coal. As a result if you go geothermal and reduce your gas consumption you also increase your electricity demand and wipe out any benefit to the environment.

The solution to this problem is to start a bunch of large scale remote wind farms and create clean electricity in the process. The problem with this is that you need a big whack of demand before companies and politicians would be willing to fork out the dough needed to get a big one built. As a result we have barely any of the wind juice in Alberta.

What is needed is leadership and a big customer to step forward and demand supply. And with a facility the size of an proposed Downtown Arena you have a real opportunity to build a one of a kind facility in the world and start a whole new industry in the process.

DO GO ON PROFESSOR WANYE

Buildings of this size are utility pigs. It takes a massive amount of electricity and natural gas to power and heat an arena complex 24/7/365 especially in Edmonton where it is so cold that entire neighbourhoods often freeze solid and aren’t heard from again until Spring.

But the bigger the utility demand from a facility, the wider your options are to find opportunities to use alternative energy. In addition, if you have a project the size of the proposed arena that is 100% committed to using alternative energies for its 50 year life span, it can single handedly justify spending investing in projects and technologies that would have guaranteed demand once they were brought online.

WASTE HEAT AND WIND

There are a couple of alternative energy technologies that could be used to power and heat a facility the size of the arena project. Without boring you to death with a bunch of energy mumbo jumbo, let’s just say this: managing the waste heat from the building and using wind power are two of the cheapest and most effective ideas.

When you are constantly making ice – i.e making cold – you are also generating a lot of heat. Have you ever seen that massive fan thing outside Rexall Place in the winter blowing steam to high heaven?

That’s the heat stack and it is venting the waste heat from the ice plant at the arena much like the back of your fridge at home vents the heat that comes from cooling your tasty Bud Light within.

A Green Arena could make use of capturing all of this waste heat and could redistribute it in the Downtown core. Back of the napkin math suggests that an arena the size of Rexall Place be used to heat roughly 10,000 square feet of low income housing heating nearby.

24/7/365 the Oilers could be providing heat that is currently being sent to the sky, to people who could make good use of it. If the arena were to be built using the a massive geothermal loop, you could power the thing using wind power – and avoid the catch 22 that “dirty” coal fired electricity that rules out the environmental benefits for using this technology for most projects.

Go Wind with the arena and the first wind farm in Northern Alberta would then have its first big customer. A customer so big that it would single handedly make the multi-million dollar investment relatively risk free. Once you get the first turbines in the ground, smaller projects could then pile on and a sizeable farm could then be built bit by bit and Alberta takes the lead.

GIVE THE POLITICIANS A REASON TO INVEST

With the Civic Election in full swing, now is not the time for any politician seeking re-election to stick their neck out and stand in favour of the new arena. Asking for money from politicians for the simple reason of ‘we want an arena like Minnesota’ isn’t really going to fly in these tough times.

So why not turn the conversation on its ear and suggest that a project as big as the arena could become a landmark in Green Development all the world over and kick start a whole new industry in Alberta? We have looked and can’t find any mention of an arena or stadium anywhere that provides significant energy savings over a traditional facility.

Build a Green Arena? Edmonton would be the first. World wide. That is something that a politician can wrap his or her arms around all day long.

TALK ABOUT YOUR PR

Every time an arena or stadium would be proposed around the world for the next 25 years someone would invariably stand up and say “if we are going to build a new building, we should make it a green one like that one way up in Northern Canada.”

The result would be delegation after delegation landing in the City of Champions and touring the arena district trying to figure out how to build one back home. The mentions of the arena and of Edmonton world wide would go through the roof – and the politicans who got on board could bask in the international glow for years to come.

And big dirty Alberta would finally have something positive to stand behind besides washing off oil covered ducks using recycled water.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Saying that the current arena needs to be replaced for environmental reasons is stretching the truth to say the least. The energy and resources to build a new arena alone are staggering and the best thing you could do for the environment would be to find away to continue to use Rexall Place until 2193.

But with Alberta being labelled as the Great Satan, with its Oilsands, Oil pumps and the team called the Oilers – a project of this magnitude would help jump start an industry that could quickly become sizeable and would shift the focus away from dirty energy and reposition Alberta at the front of an emerging alternative energy industry.

The concept of a team called “The Oilers” having the prototype Green Arena emulated world wide is a hilarious bit of irony. But as Alberta continues to seek ways to lessen its impact on the environment and find new industries other than Oil and Gas it could do just that.

Also, Jordan Eberle is a mega stud and we are going to ask his hand in marriage.

  • Wax Man Riley

    This post is so good, I signed up just to comment on how good it is. Top drawer my friend, top drawer. I hope Katz and his PR spinsters have caught wind of this.

  • smathalen

    After the Oilpocalypse, when our kids are scuffling amongst the filthy tumbleweeds in downtown Edmonton and wrestling SARS-ridden lepers for twinkies (to borrow a phrase), I imagine a solar-paneled, geo-thermal, bio-fueled monument to common sense rising up out of the nuclear ash…

    Good points from people in the industry made here. I suggest that even if the building wasn’t entirely carbon-neutral, it would inspire some conscientious forward-thinking from us rabble, no? A beacon of hope while we sip on our tailings-pond whisky while wearing SPF 150 in the winter….

  • ~I think what you are saying is that we need to buy a huge carbon credit – that makes us really green right Jim Cameron?~

    I really like this idea though. You could have a green roof, probably recycle the grey water to water the vegetation surrounding the facility. I am no expert on geothermal, but when we were considering it in our shop we just built the argument was why do you want to air condition your shop/warehouse space. In Rexall the air conditioner is running all the time I bet. It would cost a fortune to install, but I think in the long run it would be worth it.

    Although part of a green arena is using Public Transit to get to it. Remember, nobody in Alberta wants to leave their jacked up Sierra 3500diesel sitting at a park & ride…

  • offside

    ~Doesn’t James Cameron have a couple billion dollars, maybe he’ll build it?~

    But seriously, I know a lot of the oil companies are trying to improve their image, maybe some sort of an investment from them into a green arena would work?

  • smiliegirl15

    Your windfarm dream has a few flaws in it but it’s a good start of an idea. How about some solar panels on the roof? As Craig1981 points out, there are too many windless days in this part of Alberta. You still need to store energy created and you need to be able to supply demand when needed, even if there is no wind. You need the coal fired plants in conjunction with the windfarms regardless.

    If Quebec wants federal $$ to fund their NHL dreams, where is Edmonton’s federal $$ to sustain ours? We’ve proven we have the people to keep it so we deserve a helping hand, no?

    State of the art green arena is definitely the way to go though. For once, let’s be the standard to be measured by rather than the ones trying to catch up.

    On a happier note, Telus now has Channel 107 dedicated to the Oilers!!! Oh happy day!

  • JJmorrocco

    Wayne, you just converted a good ol’ Alberta redneck farmboy to a green energy afficinado. What’s next: flying pigs?
    Too good an idea to not investigate at the very least.

  • ubermiguel

    @ Wayne. Wow, seriously great idea.

    The waste heat you mention could be used to heat the arena-district. Build that capacity from scratch. Much easier than retrofitting all of downtown to accept the waste heat.

    Also, using hyrdocarbons (coal, diesel, not sure which) to cool the ice surface when it’s it’s -20 to -40 outside always struck me as odd. There are refrigerator technologies that use low outside ambient temperatures as part of the cooling process. Perhaps worth a look as well.

    Also the large outside surface area of any arena has large potential for solar collection (photovoltaic or passive system).

  • ubermiguel

    A green arena is a laudable idea but, well, I’m just not sure if anyone is willing to pay the extra money it’ll cost to green-ify (green-ize?) it.

    And, more importantly, any carbon-neutrality that a green Rexall Place will achieve will be more than offset by the millions of extra gas-guzzling, carbon-spewing vehicles that will be on the roads in developing countries like China, India and Brazil.

    You could set up portable bleachers around a shovelled-off rink on (insert your favourite Alberta lake here) and have the Oilers play 41 games there and it still wouldn’t make a dent on the carbon that the above places will be belching out in the next 50 years.

    • ubermiguel

      Well, in that case let’s not even bother. Also we should put the lead back into gasoline because it’s a naturally occurring substance and torch all social services because, really, what good are the poor gonna do for our community?
      C’mon!
      GREAT WRITING WANYE!!!
      Now if only more media outlets would harbor such radical, left-wing ideals!!!!

      • FanDangler: Easy big fella, cool your jets.

        All I’m saying is this: hockey arenas aren’t the easiest buildings to green-ify. The fellow who posted recently about LEED Gold standards is on the right track, but LEED is really only effective in office buildings, hospitals, schools and other stuff like that.

        And, having sat through a couple of LEED “charettes” (the meetings in which building planners LEED-ify buildings), I’m not sure you’ll get as much green as you think you will.

        Hockey arenas are, regrettably, giant carbon sinks. You’re creating one artificial environment (a rink) inside of another, opposite one (a big “room” air-conditioned and heated to comfort level).

        To green-ify such a facility is, as I say, a laudable idea and Wanye (and yourself) should be commended for supporting it.

        But I don’t think it’ll fly in Edmonton. For one thing: it’ll take LOTS of taxpayer money and right now, there doesn’t seem to be much support for local government money going into the project, as-is.

        How much money? No idea. But figure at least 50 per cent more on top of the high-end, carbon-spewing estimate. A number that starts with “b” and ends with “illion.”

        Folks in Edmonton can’t even agree on the need to close down a declining downtown airport. Do you think they’ll sign up for a billion-dollar arena that may or may not be carbon-neutral?

        • The conversation on this article is wicked and the second wave of information everyone is contributing is very interesting.

          I’ll write a second article with some counter points to some of the concerns raised once the comments have tapered to a close.

          Let’s be careful with estimates like “50 percent more to build the arena” because it is far too early to throw out numbers like that. Keeping it to a general theory like “yes, it will certainly cost more” is about as far as you could push it until designers, engineers and architects got involved.

          Believe it or not your ol’ pal Wanye has been involved in proposals of several green projects that didn’t get off the drawing board (due mostly to green washing) and proper planning can keep costs far below a 50% premium. What I suggested here has nothing to do with very many additional features to the arena itself per se. More arranging a clean source of electricity to run it and a geothermal loop underneath. This would ensure maximum bang for the buck, though it will come at a premium.

          Let’s keep the chatter going. The fact that people think this isn’t the stupidest idea they have ever heard probably makes this my second favourite article of all time on the site after that one about the talking pile of Ales Hemsky hair.

  • ubermiguel

    Building a green arena is a good idea insofar as it’s better than building a not-green arena. As some of the party-poopers in this thread have already pointed out, the greenest solution of all, but a decidedly less sexy one, is to not build a new arena at all.

    A new arena built to, say, LEED Gold specifications, and using technology like geothermal heating and geopolymer concrete, would certainly be more energy-*efficient* than a concrete monolith built in the ’70s. But building it at all would have a bigger environmental *impact* than not building it. Plus, Rexall Place would presumably keep humming, albeit with fewer events, so there wouldn’t even be a net gain.

    Building to LEED standards is also more expensive, and rightfully so. But as it happens, funding is the main bone of contention in the downtown arena debate, so tacking on another 20-30% to the cost would be a tough sell, especially in a province that is becoming increasingly hostile to “green” sentiments. (Though the comment thread on this article is giving me some hope).

    In the grand scheme of things, a “green” arena wouldn’t be an environmental win so much as a PR coup. Of course having the “Oilers” playing in the most sustainable arena in North America would be ironic – and that irony would spark a debate. And that debate would be good for publicity. And Edmonton, and Alberta, desperately need some good publicity, as well as some environmental cred.

    In short, I would be all for a green arena, even if it was just a bit of green-washing on the Oilers’ part, if it led to a more sustainable future for Edmonton (and the Oilers, and pro sports) in the long run.

    OK, now, back to my fantasy hockey pre-draft.

    /adamg

  • Terrible idea. Terrible, terrible idea and I can see why so many green projects don’t get off the ground.

    1. If you’re really interested in conserving energy and resources: DON’T BUILD NEW. The Three R’s – Reduce, Recycle and Reuse – notice the third one: re-use. Not Re-build. Just think of how much resources, money, and energy would be used to build a new arena and there is no way that any “savings” on energy would ever justify the building of a new arena versus just using the old one.

    2. 10,000 square feet? Did you say excess heat 10,000 square feet? so… like 7 measly homes? This is NOT a reason to build a green arena.

    3. Cost. We know that a new arena will cost over $200 million plus. How much more cost will it be to make the new arena “Green”? Double? Triple?

    There’s green washing and there’s pie-in-the-sky. The biggest problem to “green” projects is the assumption that by rebuilding cars or buildings that the savings would make a green difference – doesn’t account for the materials, and energy used to build the New Hunky-Dory device in the first place. Reduce. Re-use. Recycle.

    • Dude. Really?

      Read the article.

      Point 1: I said this right off the hop: “Saying that the current arena needs to be replaced for environmental reasons is stretching the truth to say the least. The energy and resources to build a new arena alone are staggering and the best thing you could do for the environment would be to find away to continue to use Rexall Place until 2193.”

      Point 2: No one is saying 10,000 sf in heating is the only benefit from a green arena. For realz you can’t see any other wins from doing this?

      Point 3: Triple the capital cost to build because you are buying a different kind of power?

      @suntanoil

      Right on. Thanks for the link!

    • SuntanOil

      AGREED. 100%

      Except for the fact that ANY new arena will cost just 200 million, (especially the one proposed).

      If transferring excess heat were such a good idea or remotely practical, there are tons of excess heat sources already existing. Try retrofitting an existing mall or skyscraper. Or the stacks on refinery row! It’s taken 100 years to make a high efficiency furnace for your home…how much money should we invest in somehow transferring heat from one building to a home at a cost that’s less than your standard furnace. Especially when it’s -40! GOOD LUCK!

      Cleaning up the environment is a good idea – but to achieve some made up “LEED” designation is ridiculous not to mention much harder on society than could ever be gained. Build a “somewhat enviro-friendly” arena for an extra 25 million, and give the other 275 million to the homeless. YOU WOULD STILL BE AHEAD BY 200 MILLION OVER THIS CRAZY IDEA!

      Wayne I have always wanted to join you for a beer, but now I REALLY want whatever your smokin!

      • PabstBR55

        Green where it makes sense, not where it adds cost.

        Energy-efficient design, green-roofing, solar harvesting, water recycling … these are all proven and legitimate technologies used on new construction that have DEMONSTRABLE RETURN ON INVESTMENT.

        What’s also cool is some of the ability to reduce power consumption from lighting, heating, communications, and computer systems over the IP network.

        Not all green solutions are airy-fairy and expensive. Some offer significant and proven OpEx reduction.

  • SuntanOil

    Turns out there is at least one green arena out there. We could certainly use some of their best ideas in designing ours. According to NHL.com:

    “CONSOL Energy Center has achieved LEED Gold certification, becoming the first NHL arena to reach that standard of sustainability, it was announced today by the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Sports & Exhibition Authority.

    LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), established by the U.S. Green Building Council, is the nationally-accepted standard for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. LEED ratings are based on a points system organized by categories such as energy and atmosphere, building materials and resources, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and innovation and design.

    The CONSOL Energy Center project achieved 42 points under this system, as verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). A minimum of 39 points is required for LEED Gold certification. The official designation is LEED-NC Version 2.2.”

    Here’s the link if you want to read the rest:
    http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=535504

  • I live down in “Liberal” California where there are more Priusessssss than you can believe. California tends to pick up on these environmentally sensitive subjects very quickly – so much so that the San Francisco 49ers are planning on having their new stadium (http://football.ballparks.com/NFL/SanFrancisco49ers/newindex.htm) with a grass roof and many other LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) qualities.

    “The structure would be topped by solar panels and a plant-covered living roof, similar to the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, to help cool the tower.”

    I’m also in the industry and yes it does cost a little more to go the LEED route, but the cost savings over time pay for the project.

    I like what you have written here and you are on to hitting multiple birds with one stone!

  • PabstBR55

    @PabstBR55

    I agree with your points. And I am not opposed to enviro-friendly construction to conserve energy or natural resources. I also agree with investing in “green” for less wasteage/long term savings. BUT to what end?

    If your goal is to be a responsible business to both your bottom line and to the environment, I think it’s great.

    If your goal is to gain a designation or to raise awareness, give the money to a group that has the goal of acheiving that.they will be better served than you. Your a hockey team, in the long run people don’t care about your enviro position.

    Or even better, If your trying to stop the greenhouse effect, take note that science has FAR more factors on the environment than C02 emmisions. 98% of which are factors we can’t change and have a far greater effect than the 2% we can. In the words of Raffiki – famous from Disney’s animated materpeice “The Lion King” – “its the circle of life!”

  • I'm a Scientist!

    *slow clap*

    Brilliant idea. Probably the second best idea since you decided to put up this site. I am a wildlife biologist and an always in favor of doing things the green way to help protect our fragile resources. I am not a dirty hippie (I drive an SUV and own a snowmobile) but I do think that projects like this have a LOT of merit.

    Some of your choices for making the building green may need a bit of polishing. For instance, wind farms are not as ‘green’ as they might be promoted to look like. They are a HUGE killer of migrating birds and bats. HUGE. It has become a pretty major issue in the wind farm world, but one that they are working to figure out a solution to. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/windfarm-turbines-deadly-for-birds-bats/article1598597/) With such a large space on the roof of the building, solar panels could easily be installed for the power source. The technologies are changing and getting better all the time.

    During the olympics, a lot of wooden things (including large portions of the speed skating rink) were built using mountain pine beetle wood (http://www.bcbusinessonline.ca/bcb/business-sense/2010/02/03/pine-beetle-wood-spurs-innovation).

    Anywhoo, the list of options is HUGE and worth exploring. Imagine the positive press that could be spun on this if Suncor decided to sponser the building…suddenly, Alberta isn’t looking as dirty?!?

    Good work Wanye! Worth exploring for sure!

    *pops some popcorn to settle in and watch Avatar*

  • I'm a Scientist!

    @PabstBR55

    I agree with your points. And I am not opposed to enviro-friendly construction to conserve energy or natural resources. I also agree with investing in “green” for less wasteage/long term savings. BUT to what end?

    If your goal is to be a responsible business to both your bottom line and to the environment, I think it’s great.

    If your goal is to gain a designation or to raise awareness, give the money to a group that has the goal of acheiving that.they will be better served than you. Your a hockey team, in the long run people don’t care about your enviro position.

    Or even better, If your trying to stop the greenhouse effect, take note that science has FAR more factors on the environment than C02 emmisions. 98% of which are factors we can’t change and have a far greater effect than the 2% we can. In the words of Raffiki – famous from Disney’s animated materpeice “The Lion King” – “its the circle of life!”

  • I'm a Scientist!

    @PabstBR55

    I agree with your points. And I am not opposed to enviro-friendly construction to conserve energy or natural resources. I also agree with investing in “green” for less wasteage/long term savings. BUT to what end?

    If your goal is to be a responsible business to both your bottom line and to the environment, I think it’s great.

    If your goal is to gain a designation or to raise awareness, give the money to a group that has the goal of acheiving that.they will be better served than you. Your a hockey team, in the long run people don’t care about your enviro position.

    Or even better, If your trying to stop the greenhouse effect, take note that science has FAR more factors on the environment than C02 emmisions. 98% of which are factors we can’t change and have a far greater effect than the 2% we can. In the words of Raffiki – famous from Disney’s animated materpeice “The Lion King” – “its the circle of life!”

  • I'm a Scientist!

    @PabstBR55

    I agree with your points. And I am not opposed to enviro-friendly construction to conserve energy or natural resources. I also agree with investing in “green” for less wasteage/long term savings. BUT to what end?

    If your goal is to be a responsible business to both your bottom line and to the environment, I think it’s great.

    If your goal is to gain a designation or to raise awareness, give the money to a group that has the goal of acheiving that.they will be better served than you. Your a hockey team, in the long run people don’t care about your enviro position.

    Or even better, If your trying to stop the greenhouse effect, take note that science has FAR more factors on the environment than C02 emmisions. 98% of which are factors we can’t change and have a far greater effect than the 2% we can. In the words of Raffiki – famous from Disney’s animated materpeice “The Lion King” – “its the circle of life!”

  • I'm a Scientist!

    If the arena was constructed using a photovoltaic curtain wall system it could power its self and sell all of it’s excess solar energy back to the grid. (solar-panels in the windows). Photovoltaics on the building would be far less expensive to build initially than windmills. Even just using an energy efficient building design can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in utility bills.

    The use of an energy efficient curtain wall could pay for it’s self in heating savings over the first couple years of operation or initially by building the arena with a smaller heating and air conditioning units. The most quality way this could be possible would be to use a Visionwall curtain wall system. This curtain wall system is the most energy efficient in the world. It’s patent originated in Switzerland, but has been based and owned in Edmonton, AB for more than twenty years!

    Visionwall has provided curtain wall for hundreds of large scale commercial buildings around North America including: the Wall Centre (Best New Skyscraper of 2001) in Vancouver, and the Intact building (2009) in Edmonton on Jasper Ave. and 108th St. Using this product would make any dream of a LEED designation for our new arena completely obtainable, and support a growing local business.

    Visionwall’s web site is http://www.visionwall.com