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At Brasilia’s new stadium, the earth scores big time

Author Jacqueline Detwiler Illustration James Provost

If there were a way to harness the power generated by 70,000 flag-draped soccer fans shouting to the point of hoarseness, our planet might not have an energy problem. Alas, the outlook for such technology is dubious, so Brazilian architects Castro Mello have done the next best thing. They’ve designed the new Estádio Nacional in Brazil’s capital, Brasília, to be the world’s first major sports stadium that’s net-zero energy and LEED Platinum-rated. In the process, they’ve sparked similar initiatives throughout the rest of Brazil, and hope to inspire other countries to follow suit by the time the stadium hosts the 2014 FIFA World Cup. “If you can build stadiums green, you can build anything green,” says Ian McKee, the project’s head LEED consultant. Here’s how they did it.

1. The stadium’s sprawling white roof works with Brasília’s weather—hot in direct sunlight, cool in the shade—to cut air-conditioning requirements. It also provides space for a 2.544-megawatt solar array that will collect and exchange power with the local grid to provide for all the building’s electricity needs.  

2. To clean greenhouse gases from the air, those parts of the roof not covered in solar panels are coated with titanium dioxide. When activated by sunlight, the titanium dioxide converts carbon dioxide to, essentially, dirt, which is then washed away by rainwater—which is itself filtered and reused in toilets and irrigation systems.

3. More than half the carbon emissions associated with stadiums come from auto transportation to and from events. The Castro Mello team aimed to cut those emissions by offering a bike valet program with indoor and outdoor parking spots. Plus, the stadium is located within walking distance of two major hotel districts.

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