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Found Space: Opportunities in Large Athletic Buildings

07.25.17 / BY ARC

The sheer size and structural requirements of campus athletic buildings often result in very large building “footprints” - and consequently occupy an oversized amount of space. Characteristics of these buildings include 1) large amounts of open roof area, and 2) unused space above and below the main functions of the building and within the concrete foundations.

While these areas were typically left unused in the past, ARC views them as “found space” - an opportunity for valuable new uses including auxiliary fitness and competition venues, solar energy generation, and added parking space.

Reclaim the Roof
Rooftops on athletic buildings are ideal candidates for locating large arrays of solar PV panels and solar thermal systems. Examples include:

  • At Phillips Exeter Academy’s new field house, 1400 solar PV panels on the 70,000 SF roof area produce an annual output of 660,300 kW hours, enough electricity to power 60 households per year.
  • The roof above the new multipurpose arena at Bentley University will accommodate solar PV panels and generate 500 Kw solar array, offsetting over 50% of projected energy use. This contributes significantly towards the LEED Platinum goal, which will make the arena the first hockey venue in the U.S. to achieve Platinum status.

Bentley University, Multipurpose Center, Waltham, MA

  • The Johnson Center for Health and Wellness at the Hackley School will feature a 316 Kw solar array, generating 375,000 Kw hours of electricity per year.

  • At Worcester State University, the new Wellness Center uses the roof to create a home for a solar thermal component that captures heat to create hot water for the shower rooms, laundry machines, and building heat. The roof also collects rainwater for use in irrigation.

In addition to providing new clean energy production, integrating solar arrays and solar-thermal systems on rooftops contributes significantly to LEED and other sustainability benchmarks. At Bentley University, Hackley School and Worcester State University, these initiatives are contributing to each achieving LEED Gold or higher Certification.

Worcester State University, Wellness Center, Worcester, MA

Build Out the Volume
Space underneath large athletic buildings can be repurposed for a variety of uses. Carrying the loads of the structure above for these large buildings typically results in a huge amount of concrete in the building foundations. For example, at the new Thompson Field House at Phillips Exeter Academy the foundation needed to adjust to a change in grade of almost 9 feet in elevation along the 350-foot length of the building. Seizing on the opportunity with this height change, the field house design incorporates a parking garage below the concrete foundation to provide 170 parking spaces to support athletic events at the field house as well as other facilities and functions throughout the campus.

Above Images: Phillips Exeter Academy, New Field House & Parking Structure Below, Exeter, NH

Other “found -space” examples include:

  • The space under a two-court gymnasium at the Hackley School’s Johnson Center for Health and Wellness also varies along a steep change in topography and is therefore used for the location of multiple spaces – including a weight training room, a wrestling competition venue, mechanical rooms, and locker rooms.
  • Also at the Hackley School, a mezzanine jogging track weaves around the volumes of the large venues, providing additional exercise space and views into the other areas of activity.

Above Images: Hackley School, Johnson Center for Health and Wellness, Tarrytown, NY

  • At Phillips Exeter Academy, a wrestling mezzanine and multi-purpose function room fit within the larger volume of the field house, adding extra program space for athletics and campus life.

Phillips Exeter Academy, New Field House & Parking Structure, Exeter, NH

As significant, large physical assets of a campus, these athletic facilities should be viewed not just as buildings that meet the needs of athletic and wellness departments, but also as valuable opportunities to provide energy, student life and support services, and program spaces for an entire campus community.

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