Manufacturers’ focus: Sports, entertainment venues

Sports arenas and entertainment facilities require unique product solutions. Hear from three manufacturers who provide solutions in these facilities.
By Consulting-Specifying Engineer April 24, 2013

Kirk Adams, Cummins Power Generation

Peter Ebersold, Notifier

Jeff Wiedemann, Uponor


CSE: Please describe a sports or entertainment venue you’ve worked on—share details about the project, including building location, size, etc.

The Cummins Power Generation emergency power system at the Minnesota Twins ball field includes two diesel generators and six transfer switches. Courtesy: Cummins Power GenerationCummins Power Generation: Our company has provided emergency power systems for a number of sports facilities. Our most recent project was Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins. This 39,000-seat ballpark was the second U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified sports complex in the United States, and it’s been called the most beautiful baseball field in the country. We supplied the emergency power system, which consists of two diesel generators and six transfer switches, to provide backup power for the security systems, elevators, egress lighting, and the public address system.

CSE: How have the characteristics of sports and entertainment venues changed in recent years, and what should engineers expect to see in the near future?

Cummins Power Generation: When stadiums were used primarily for sporting events, the requirements were fairly basic. But today’s stadiums are multi-purpose venues for concerts and other special events. And on game day, a variety of restaurants and other amenities bring people in before the game, and they stay after. Target Field has full-service restaurants, banquet rooms, and meeting facilities, and is used for everything from wedding receptions to catered events for thousands of people.

CSE: How does a sports or entertainment venue differ from any other large building?

Cummins Power Generation: Unlike other buildings, the emergency and supplemental power requirements of a multi-purpose sports facility vary depending on the activity. For sports events, emergency power is primarily used for life safety—exit lighting, fire alarm systems, smoke evacuation, and communications. But a major concert or special event may require supplemental power for special lighting, audio systems, and stage mechanics. Rental generators, which are available from Cummins distributors all over the country, provide the flexibility to bring in additional power only when required.

CSE: What trends are you seeing in such facilities?

Uponor: We’re continuing to see increased interest in the use of hydronic systems in these facilities for a number of reasons—primarily safety, maintenance, and energy efficiency. Turf conditioning systems, for example, are being used in more stadiums as facility directors are look for ways to keep the fields in optimum playing condition during the winter months. Snow melting systems are being incorporated into designs as an easier way to keep outdoor spectator stands, public walkways, and driveways clear of snow without the use of chemicals. This helps free up a lot of manpower. Radiant heating and cooling continues to be a popular energy-efficient solution for maintaining comfort in public spaces, office areas, showers, and locker rooms. By relying more heavily on hydronic solutions, facility directors can more easily manage their resources and see reduced fluctuations due to unpredictable weather.

CSE: What’s the most important advice you could offer an engineer considering your products?

Cummins Power Generation: The most cost-effective method for supplying supplemental power for a multi-use venue is a combination of stationary and mobile generators. By anticipating the need for additional power for concerts and special events, and designing the infrastructure to accommodate rental generators, the consultant can provide a scalable, flexible solution to meet current and future power requirements.

Uponor: It is important to specify the right product for each specific application. There are a lot of resources available for the engineers. While these systems are by no means new, properly applying the products, with the right operating temperatures, pressures, flow rates, and controls, is critical to ensure that the system as a whole operates to the engineer and owner’s expectations.

CSE: What factors do engineers on such projects sometimes overlook?

Uponor: When it comes to turf conditioning, snow melt, and radiant heating and cooling systems, it is important to understand what potential downward losses might occur, given the slab profile and ground conditions. The engineer needs to evaluate whether insulation is required below these systems. Otherwise, the heat source/distribution system may be undersized to take care of the required load. Another important factor to consider is to how to best control high thermal mass systems, given the intermittent occupancy of sporting and entertainment facilities.

CSE: Integration of facilities is becoming more prevalent. How is your company/product meeting this need?

Cummins Power Generation: At Target Field, the generators and transfer switches are networked with the building management system, so critical information about the status of the power sources can be monitored from the facility command center.

Uponor: As previously noted, we recognize the importance of proper controls to ensure that the systems operate as intended. We work hand in hand with the control system providers on each project to ensure that the proper sequence of operation is incorporated.

CSE: Describe some recent electrical/power system challenges you encountered when designing a new building or updating an existing building.

Cummins Power Generation: Target Field was shoe-horned into an extremely tight site on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. Locating the emergency generators was a challenge. There are two generators at opposite ends of the building, each backing up half of the facility’s load. Both are located under city streets, and one generator is located in an enclosed space that required a long run of special piping to bring in fresh air from the pedestrian concourse above, and to vent the exhaust out over a nearby freeway.

CSE: Large entertainment venues traditionally require a great deal of power during events. What resources can you offer engineers to help meet these short-duration, high-power goals?

Uponor: Yes, I think there are some folks in New Orleans who know a little something about that. One of the great benefits of hydronic-based systems is that they use a fraction of the energy required versus air-based heating systems. This can help alleviate the total load placed on the facility’s power system.

Cummins Power Generation: Given the varying power levels required at multi-purpose stadiums, it makes sense to plan on renting generators for major events. This year’s Super Bowl is a great example. CBS’s on-site equipment and Beyonce’s halftime show were both powered by rental generators; they were not connected to the stadium’s utility feed and therefore had no connection to the stadium power failure.

CSE: How have the costs and complexity of fire protection systems changed in recent years?

Notifier: Over the past decade, more fire alarm and life safety systems are using networked panels. This adds the flexibility to add new panels quickly as a facility expands. Networking also adds survivability to the life safety system because the system is spread throughout a building rather than being concentrated in a single area. If there was an event where the entire system is located, safety could be compromised. With a distributed system, the equipment outside the event area will continue to function normally. Survivability is an important feature that many building owners or facility managers are looking for today in a fire or life safety system. Another advantage of networking is ease of adding a PC-based workstation to the entire system. With a workstation the end-user has a graphical representation of the entire protected facility and can monitor the event as it unfolds, then make decisions on a response in real time. Adding networking and workstations can raise system design and equipment cost, but most buildings are willing to accept the extra expense for the benefit of improved life safety.

CSE: With regard to mass notification and emergency communication systems, what code changes do you anticipate in the near future?

Notifier: The 2010 Edition of NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, added a new chapter, Chapter 24, dedicated to emergency communication systems. The demand for more definition of the need for and requirements of mass notification or emergency communications systems has been increasing since the mid 1990s as a result of terrorist and mass casualty incidents around the world. As more jurisdictions adopt NFPA 72-2010 and the latest version, NFPA 72-2013, more facilities will be required to have emergency communication systems that deliver emergency messages through multiple means such as voice announcements, e-mail blasts, text messages, etc., to ensure that every person is reached with the announcement whether they work in a facility, are visiting, or are in the nearby area. Having a single method of communication will no longer be adequate.

CSE: What new detection, suppression, or notification system, product, or method do you see becoming the most prevalent? Describe a recent project.

Notifier: A detection trend that is gaining traction is the use of multi-criteria detection. An example of a multi-criteria detector is a combination smoke detector with photo, infrared, temperature, and carbon monoxide sensors in a single device. Algorithms in the device use the outputs of each sensor to verify that the multiple signatures of a fire are present before sending an active fire signal to the fire alarm control panel. Multi-criteria detection can further reduce nuisance alarms, and if programmed to do so, can report out the levels of each different type of sensor. In this example the CO sensor could report actual CO levels to the panel, eliminating the need for a separate CO detector. This reduces installation and maintenance costs along with improving aesthetics for the building owner or project architect.

CSE How does your technology help engineers make their clients’ sports and entertainment structures more energy efficient?

Uponor: A radiant heating and cooling system can help dramatically reduce the energy consumption of a building through lower transport energy usage, more efficient operating modes, expanded room setpoints, lower transmission losses, and thermal inertia. Because the heat-transfer capacity of water is much higher than that of air, a radiant system that uses a pump to move water (in lieu of a fan to move air) can achieve the same heat transfer using significantly less energy.

CSE: What HVAC issue comes to the forefront most when you’re supporting engineers in such facilities? How do you help overcome these issues/answer their questions?

Uponor: When an engineer is considering radiant cooling, one of the common issues that seems to come up is surface condensation. Condensation on the floor is both a safety and a maintenance concern. This would occur if the surface temperature ever dropped below the dewpoint. This is of particular concern in high-occupancy areas such as sporting or entertainment venues, where the latent load could be significant. In order to address this, however, one needs to look at the HVAC system as a whole. If the system is properly designed to maintain temperature and relative humidity levels conducive to human health and comfort, then it would be unlikely that you would have indoor dew points close to the 66 to 68 F minimum floor surface temperature recommended by ASHRAE Standard 55

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