HPAC Magazine

Mechanical Industry Plays Starring Role In NHL’s Goals

December 1, 2014   By PATRICK CALLAN

The National Hockey League (NHL) released its 2014 NHL Sustainability Report this past summer and with it became the first professional sport in North America to compile a detailed analysis of its carbon footprint.

The report looked at the operations of all 30 NHL teams and their venue partners across Canada and the U.S, and found that on average the league emits about 530 000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year. This number includes all league and club business activities, including 1230 regular season games, more than 60 playoff matches and nearly 2 000 000 air travel miles.

Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist for the Natural Resource Defense Council and lead advisor to the NHL’s sustainability report, calls it “the single most important document about the environment ever produced by a professional sports organization.” The report, he says, indicates an acknowledgement by a non-political, non-partisan and widely admired sports league that environmental, global warming, water conservation and energy efficiency issues matter. Hershkowitz underscored the central role heating, venting, air conditioning and plumbing plays in not only the NHL’s day-to-day operations but also its long-term sustainability goals.

“HVAC and plumbing are fundamental to the performance of a hockey arena. You can’t play professional hockey without HVAC and plumbing. The companies who anticipate the environmental initiatives and imperatives of this market most successfully are going to be the market winners,” he predicts. “The NHL is saying we want HVAC and plumbing, just as we want all of our operations, to be environmentally intelligent. It certainly doesn’t say we’re going to tolerate inefficiency. At the same time, the NHL is saying we want this stuff at competitive prices.”

NHL goes green

At the Winter Classic on January 1, 2010, the league established its NHL Green initiative (see sidebar p57) to promote sustainable business practices. As part of the initiative, the NHL’s internal sustainability team, headed up by director Omar Mitchell, is working with all clubs to incorporate the goals of NHL Green. While compiling the NHL’s 2014 sustainability report, Mitchell traveled to 13 arenas across Canada and the U.S. to review their operations.

“What we learned in this report is that 70 per cent of our emissions are attributed to electricity use,” he said, adding more and more rinks are taking advantage of different options to increase efficiency within their ice plant, HVAC and lighting systems.

In his travels, Mitchell observed a variety of plumbing technologies that reduce water use, such as waterless urinals and inserts in sink faucets to lower water pressure. “It’s those types of little technologies that don’t have huge capsule outlays but have big return on investment – especially in communities or municipalities that have high wastewater costs,” he explained.

Mitchell also witnessed promising examples of on-site renewable energy, particularly variable frequency drive (VFD) motors in HVAC and ice plant systems. VFDs allow for modulation in different stages (i.e. 20, 40, 60, 80, 100 per cent of motor capacity) instead of simply on or off. This lets venue managers program their systems to run at incremental power levels for optimal efficiency. “Variable frequency drives are certainly something that’s an easy retrofit for existing HVAC or ice plant technology,” added Mitchell.  

Canadian case studies

“We see that a lot of the Canadian clubs are really taking these initiatives to heart,” he says, adding Montreal’s Bell Centre has been at the forefront of many of the NHL’s environmental initiatives. The Bell Centre has received three environmental certifications: LEED Silver for Existing Buildings (EBOM), ISO 14001 certification for implementing an environmental management system, and Quebec’s Ici On Recycle Level Three (the highest level).

Other green initiatives at the Bell Centre include reducing overall water consumption by 20 per cent, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 28 per cent, and all electrical products in the venue meet ENERGYSTAR efficiency requirements. “Their building has numerous technologies that reduce energy use in their building and that equates to less greenhouse gases,” said Mitchell.

At Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, an automated Energy Optimization System (EOS) fine tunes and optimizes the entire facility, from HVAC to chillers to lighting, in real-time. The facility’s energy manager feeds the EOS with the building’s event needs and the system takes care of the energy and space planning. By continuously adjusting the equipment set points for optimal efficiency and performance, the EOS system has reduced total energy use at the facility by 14 per cent.

“By giving venue managers the ability to track ice plants, HVAC systems and lighting systems in real time, they know exactly how to operate the building in the most efficient manner,” said Mitchell. “They know through this system exactly how to modify and carefully calibrate their building to achieve energy efficiency optimization.”

At the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, several energy saving technologies are also in place. VFDs were recently installed on the venue’s four, 220-ton roof top units, says Ed Meichsner, senior director of facility operations, MTS Centre.

“In our industry we need to have more control. Not only is this necessary for the comfort of our fans but it also plays a very big part in the condition of the ice for our NHL Winnipeg Jets,” he says. “Air flow on ice generally negatively affects the ice conditions. With the VFD’s we can run max heating or cooling and control the velocity of the air in the building.”

The venue also recaptures heat created by occupants and machinery, and rather than dumping it, passes it through the same ventilation and filters as the air from the heat recovery ventilation system (HRV). “The two streams of airflow extract the most heat possible and expel the cold air. We are considering this to melt snow and keep our exterior loading ramp clean of ice and safe for vehicles,” he said.

The HRV keeps the facility fresh and aired out by constantly forcing new air in and squeezing old air out. This allows unnecessary moisture to be expelled, prevents mould and mildew, and provides low humidity levels needed for the best ice conditions. “The HRV also reuses the hot air trapped in the ceiling space to lower heating costs during winter months and vice versa in the summer (reuses cold air during summer),” he added.

For ice making, reverse osmosis is used to filter water instead of treating it chemically. The system creates demineralized water that is free of impurities and typically forms into a harder ice surface, which does not require as much maintenance, floodwater and refrigeration energy. Combined, all these energy saving initiatives have helped to lower the venue’s utility costs. “We also track our greenhouse gas emission savings by the ton and the numbers are quite impressive,” he said.

Leading by example

Hershkowitz, who also works as an environmental advisor with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the United States Tennis Association
, said the NHL sustainability report represents a watershed moment because now other major sports leagues want to follow suit and produce their own sustainability reports.

“It ushers in a new era of information sharing and commitment by the sports industry,” he said. “All industries meet at a NHL event – water, energy, plastics, food, textile, chemical, transportation – so when the NHL comes out with a sustainability report and says the environmental impact of the products we buy and the way we operate our arenas matters to us, that’s an extraordinarily important statement. That sends a message to sports venues all over the world.

“All of the companies that supply sports venues are basically being put on notice that environment criteria are going to be applied to the operations of these venues. And that’s going to continue to spur innovation,” he said.

As NHL teams continue to incorporate the latest energy efficient equipment and technology into their arenas and facilities, the goal is that these green business practices will make their way into amateur rinks across Canada and the U.S, added Mitchell. “There are 4000 to 6000 community rinks across North America. If the types of best practices that are coming out of the NHL can filter down to the community rink level, that’s the type of impact that we’re hoping to have,” he said.

To read the NHL’s complete sustainability report visit www.nhl.com/green/report.   <>

What is the Green Initiative?

Approaching its fourth year, the NHL Green Initiative continues to set the standard for environmental responsibility by a major North American sports league. Each of the 30 teams has a representative who acts as a liaison between the club, its facility and the league’s sustainability team. These individuals coordinate data collection, project implementation, fan engagement and environmental stewardship within their organization. The NHL Green’s goal is to work with its clubs, players, fans, employees and corporate partners to reduce the impact the business of hockey has on the planet.

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