Sports, entertainment venues need engineering athleticism
CSE: Owners often like to make their venues multi-use facilities. What unique engineering issues do you encounter with these facilities, and how do you overcome them?
McKinlay: For multi-use facilities the building systems need to flexible in capacity and adaptable to serve many different demands depending on the event. One of the key issues is acoustics in terms of intelligibility of public address systems, but also the sense of “liveliness” that audiences expect at any public event. For example, a venue may need to sound quiet for a small concert but then need to have a festive roar during a basketball game. You need the space to be tune-able, but that means every system needs to support that tune-ability. Often, systems for acoustics and sound, fire management, lighting, and climate control need to be considered holistically from an integrated approach in order to accommodate several different potential configurations for a venue. Arup has always worked with an integrated approach, so we overcome a lot of what might be considered obstacles for some design teams just through the nature of how we work, getting everyone at the table throughout the process.
Lewis: The most important factor for design is understanding the owner’s requirements. If for some reason we’re working with an owner who is new to these types of facilities, we really strive to educate the team on what is typically provided in these facilities to allow them to truly be multi-purpose buildings. The biggest issue is really the simplest, and that is to keep in mind that flexibility in all systems is paramount. At HEI we like to keep up to date on the latest trends and emerging technology to verify our designs are not short-sighted and that we have capacity in all systems for growth.
Larwood: The MEP systems are a huge contributor to delivering flexibility. Whether it’s exhaust systems for pyrotechnic shows or creating the optimal air conditions for premium ice quality for hockey, significant planning goes into the systems design. Of course, reliability of the systems is paramount, and oftentimes the electrical service will be provided from two separate sources to minimize the possibility of a power outage. Every building is unique, and the solutions, though often drawn from similar past projects, are also always unique.
Cooper: System requirements can become really interesting when a space will be used for a basketball game one day, a concert the next, and a presidential debate the following week. In order to provide the necessary solutions, we have to understand the current needs of today’s typical touring band, the requirements for a national TV broadcast, etc. You can’t just request these requirements, as the information you will get is often extremely conservative and will result in grossly oversized systems. You really need to understand the equipment and the operations of the multiple “tenants” that may use the facility. There has to be a balancing act between permanent and portable infrastructure. One use that we see being considered on many projects is the potential for the building becoming an emergency shelter for the surrounding community. The facility may be looked to for beds, heat, showers, food service, emergency operations headquarters, etc. The emergency power arrangement of the facility can be drastically affected by these requirements, and one requirement may have a domino effect that requires far more system modifications than first imagined. Again, a balance must be struck between significant system modifications, the likelihood of certain scenarios, and the viability of relying on portable or temporary accommodations to provide the desired services.
Evans: Most of the facilities I mentioned previously have multiple uses. Not only do they accommodate a number of different sporting and entertainment venues, they also are frequently used for trade shows that can include multi-level booths, as well as motor home and boat shows. These uses substantially change the fuel load within the facility and must be taken into account during the initial design phase. The infield of the Speedway is used for concerts and has accommodated upwards of 300,000 attendees, which substantially revises the egress requirements.