CHALLENGE. In 2008, the District of Columbia challenged Populous with delivering a baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals that combined inspirational architecture with a commitment to sustainable design. Set near the Anacostia River in a neighborhood that had yet to reach its potential, the site of the ballpark dictated the firm’s approach to green design. Populous’ goal for Nationals Park was to create sustainability for an emerging neighborhood within the nation’s capitol.
INNOVATION. The U.S. Green Building Council said Nationals Park was one of the most ambitious projects ever to achieve certification. The ballpark received 34 points toward LEED Certification for green design elements such as installation of water conserving plumbing fixtures, which save 3.6 million gallons of water per year and reduce overall water consumption by 30 percent. Also, recycled materials were used in 20 percent of the ballpark’s construction, and 5,500 tons of construction waste were recycled.
Nationals Park embodies multiple facets of both urban and sustainable design. The ballpark’s river location seeks to relate to its environment through transparency, massing and openness, along with a strikingly simple gesture of geometric volumes. It also presents a monumental façade consistent with the traditions of D.C.’s best civic buildings.
Populous oriented the stadium so ground-level openings offer views into the interior of the seating bowl at street intersections and also through the glass curtain walls encasing the lounges that serve the upper levels.
Inviting and dramatic, the N Street entry plaza sits as the termination to the spectator’s path of arrival with the open-armed seating bowl as its backdrop. This strategic positioning entices patrons into Nationals Park by showcasing hints of the excitement within. Once inside, the fan experience is heightened by prominent visual connections to the field including through the glass curtain walls encasing upper level lounges.
IMPACT. With the help of strategic sustainable design, Nationals Park was ultimately recognized as the first professional stadium in the United States to achieve LEED Silver certification. Learning from green design and construction methods in other building types that had not yet been incorporated into many sports buildings, Populous was able to bring the final cost of delivering a green facility down to nearly 93 percent of the initial $20 million estimate. The result is a beautiful, lasting ballpark with a fitting stature in our nation’s hometown.