Sustainability a priority in Rec Sports Master Plan

LEED_silverThroughout the Master Plan process Rec Sports has placed an emphasis on creating a plan that prioritizes sustainability at each facility. While the Master Plan asks students to support an increase in segregated fees, new facilities would be more energy-efficient and cost-effective than the current facilities (even after substantial repairs and maintenance projects).

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) uses a certification program called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and gives different levels of certification, ranging from Certified to Platinum, depending on how the building ranks in a variety of categories. In LEED certification, an effort is made to pursue points which have a strong return on investment.


Commitment to sustainable facilities.
Below is a list of intended sustainability initiatives to be included in the Rec Sports Master Plan:

  •  Seek a minimum LEED Silver rating at each facility (and equivalent for outdoor fields), following UW Builds Green initiative
  • Maximize daylighting inside all new buildings to reduce overall energy consumption
  • Use sustainable building materials wherever possible
  • Reuse and recycle demolition materials from buildings (SERF & Natatorium) to keep them out of the landfill
  • Include green roofs to reduce storm water runoff, help cool the buildings, and provide natural habitat
  • Direct storm water to infiltration basins and bioswales to reduce the impact on Lake Mendota and promote infiltration
  • Reduce significantly lawn irrigation on outdoor fields, reducing overall water consumption
  • Use low-flow toilets and water-conserving showers in all new buildings
  • Investigate use of solar preheat water panels on the roof of all new buildings
  • Minimize pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers with the use of synthetic turf fields (made from recycled materials)
  • Use sharp cutoff, night-sky compliant lighting on all outdoor fields and around all new buildings
  • Encourage alternative transportation with more bike racks and shower facilities

Imitating success.WID_night10_2152
Rec Sports is encouraged by recent campus projects that demonstrate sustainable practices by generating energy and cost savings.

The Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery (LEED Gold)

  • 68% energy savings over the baseline building
  • 78% less water reduction than the baseline building
  • 936 bicycle stalls with four shower/changing facilities to promote alternative transportation

Union South (LEED Gold)

  • 36% performance improvement over a similar “baseline” building
  • Used vertical sun louvers, daylighting and occupancy sensors
  • 7,853 square feet of vegetated green roofs help reduce the heat island effect along with capturing excess storm water

LaBahn Arena (LEED Silver)

  • All plants and grass surrounding site require no irrigation
  • Low-emitting paints, sealants, adhesives, carpets and furnishings were used

Other leaders in sustainability.
Outside of UW, schools are using LEED motivation to build energy-efficient buildings with cost-effective strategies.

The University of Arizona is home to the best college recreation center in the country, according to one website.
The University of Arizona is home to the best college recreation center in the country, according to one website.

University of Colorado-Boulder (exceeds LEED Platinum)

  • New rec center will exceed LEED Platinum standards and approach net-zero energy use, even with two energy-intensive indoor pools and a hockey rink

University of Arizona (LEED Platinum)

University of Texas

  • Saves 3 million gallons of water each year thanks to artificial stadium turf

Environmental impact assessment.
The University is in the process of working with the State to hire an environmental consultant to perform assessments at each site. This process typically takes a minimum of three months and results of that study would be available toward the end of the spring semester, pending students’ support of the Master Plan. More fast facts about these assessments:

  • As a steward of students’ money, Rec Sports does not intend to continue spending students’ money on a project until funding has been approved by students in the voting process
  • Campus and Rec Sports will not move any plans forward that would be harmful to the environment
  • Campus is already working with the state to initiate the environmental impact study and, should the referendum pass, these assessments are predicted to be released yet this semester
  • The impact studies will guide all design and construction plans – any images and plans you’ve heard are conceptual and “best case scenario” for the programming needs of campus but Rec Sports is willing to be flexible in plans based on the study results
  • The UBay fields are not included in the student vote in March and no funding is available to even begin this project – images and plans are conceptual and not formal design
  • The alternative to passing the Master Plan in the March vote indicates an increase in segregated fees and less cost-effective, energy-efficient facilities

Ongoing commitment.
Sustainability efforts will not end once the facilities are built. Rec Sports will continue to pursue grants for sustainability projects to conserve water and energy. Our goal is to address the essentials of development today without compromising the needs of future generations.


Voting process.
Students may vote on the Rec Sports Master Plan as part of the ASM Student Elections on March 3-5. Elections will be held online (email to be sent out by ASM).

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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2 thoughts on “Sustainability a priority in Rec Sports Master Plan

  1. I’m happy to see such a wonderful commitment to sustainability in the Master Plan. However, “sustainability” does not always mean “environmentally friendly.” This is why an environmental impact assessment should be completed before students are asked to fund this project.

    For example, it’s awesome that the fields are LEED-certified. However, there is no mention in any of these plans about how the eco-fill turf degrades over time, especially with all the additional use you guys are hoping to get out of these fields. I’ve also heard concerns about the potential negative health effects of the polymers it’s made from. Similarly, salt runoff from parking lots is incredibly damaging to aquatic ecosystems. These effects become especially harmful when one considers where these fields are located in the Willow Creek and Lake Mendota watersheds.

    Any potential organic or chemical runoff in these areas needs to be considered carefully, regardless of the LEED certification of the fields. “Directing storm water” to “reduce” an impact to these ecosystems is not a convincing solution. We need more. We would suggest that RecSports consider incorporating a vegetative buffer into the field design, up to the 100-year floodplain if possible.

    In addition, we are concerned about the effect these renovations will have on bird populations. Sandhill cranes have been spotted numerous times on the Near West fields, and we are concerned that replacing these fields with eco-turf will continue to deter these important species even after construction is complete. We are also concerned about increased use of lights in these fields, as bright, nighttime lighting disturbs bird populations.

    We are very excited about the sustainable design of the buildings, but there is still no information available about the efforts the University and RecSports will make to minimize disturbances to local ecosystems.

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