Stadium designers can play a pivotal role in modern-day sustainable development, that is the message from Jim Saywell, director in Buro Happold’s UK sustainability and physics team.

Speaking during a presentation on the Five Capitals model and sustainable stadiums at TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2020, Saywell talked of the benefits of a bespoke sustainability framework when considering a new development.

“Sustainable development is not a destination, it’s a process of change,” he said during the session, which can be watched in full below.

“Change is difficult, but stadium designers can make a difference, and we’re in a position, perhaps more than any other sector, to make our clients think about how the effect they can have, good or bad, on the environment and society.”

Touching on how news of COVID-19 vaccines present “great news” for sports venues heading into 2021, Saywell warned that there is no “imminent miracle vaccine to cure the climate and biodiversity crisis”.

He continued: “Stadiums have the ability to inspire fans to behave differently and have a positive impact well beyond what happens on matchday.

“For a long time we have largely been paying lip service to sustainability. Many projects that claim sustainability do so by spinning a story of sustainable design that are at best modest improvements over established practice.

“As stadium designers, we have the responsibility and ability to drive better social, environment and economical outcomes, making minor tweaks just isn’t going to cut it. We’re not going to get to where we want to be. We have to change how we think and stop thinking about economics as a separate issue to social and environmental ones. We need to start thinking of all three being interlinked.”

Saywell focused his presentation on how the ‘Five Capitals Model’ developed by the Forum for the Future organisation can translate to the stadium and arena marketplace. Focused on the five capitals of natural, social, human, manufactured and financial, the model provides a basis for understanding sustainability based in terms of the economic concept of wealth creation.

Saywell said that as stadium designers “we can help understanding of what damage could take place and how we can minimise it” in terms of natural capital. He stressed that stadium designers can help enhance social capital.

He explained: “A stadium one of the most under-utilised building types we have. A lot of opportunities lie in designing stadia for use beyond matchday, creating social interaction.”

From a manufactured capital perspective, Saywell queried whether minimising embodied energy in a stadium design is always the better option. He added: “A way of enhancing manufactured capital is making a stadium as flexible as possible so it can be used for multiple purposes. Getting more use out of a stadium could justify a higher embodied energy.”

Buro Happold has carried out a bespoke sustainability framework for a number of projects across different sectors, with Saywell stating the company is currently in the process of applying this methodology to English Premier League football club Everton’s new stadium.

Saywell said Buro Happold is in communications with the club and key stakeholders to “develop what sustainability means for them”. The company is using that feedback to develop specific targets around existing rating systems, which will be tracked throughout the construction and post-occupancy phase.

Saywell added: “Bespoke provides flexibility and ability to change according to economic, social and leadership trends.”

Attendees are able to watch sessions from all three days of TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2020 for the next 30 days through the event platform

The Summit returns to Manchester – in person, in the real world – on June 22-23, 2021.

Main Image: Everton