It’s game night. Hockey fans driving to the Seattle Thunderbirds’ new home in Kent, Wash., can see the arena long before they hit the gates, and when they get closer, the steel and glass façade reflects green streaks, red taillights, and spectators approaching the lobby. As the Zamboni takes its spin around the ice, the parking lot fills with cars. Anticipation builds.

Seattle-based LMN Architects’ scheme for the 154,400-square-foot multiuse ShoWare Center (the ice sheet can be covered and the seating reconfigured for concerts) choreographs that time between getting out of your car and arriving at your seat. “We analyzed all the architectural elements according to how they create the complete sequence, and how they culminate in the overall dramatic experience,” says LMN design partner Mark Reddington. “That experience starts when you see the building. It extends into the community, even to those who aren’t going to the event.”

Indeed, the atmosphere is electric, literally. Green lines painted on the ground and trimmed with LEDs radiate out from the glazed public concourse into the parking lot, serving as paths to the building’s entrance. Spectators are greeted by a large sloping mirrored stainless steel soffit, which reflects everything from fans to supergraphics, making even a half-full house seem dizzyingly energetic.

But behind the glitz and sporting paraphernalia is a thoughtfully engineered building that flouts the perception that sporting venues cannot be paragons of environmentally conscious design. In most arenas—especially ice rinks—heating, cooling, and electrical loads are high, but with a carefully designed HVAC system, the ShoWare Center is on track for LEED Silver certification. Efficient space planning accounts for a chunk of the building’s overall sustainability; by placing the rink on grade and looping the concourse around its perimeter, Reddington was able to tuck concession stands and restrooms under the bleachers, while back-of-house facilities such as locker rooms and offices were consolidated on the arena’s north side. Site tactics such as stormwater management and recharging nearby wetlands with roof rainwater runoff added LEED points, as did the use of local and recycled materials. But for Reddington, making the building eco-friendly wasn’t the driving force behind the design. “The building is sustainable, but it is not a showcase of green elements. It is fundamentally designed around how people use the space,” he says.

And while the sustainable elements of the building are worth celebrating, most fans likely won’t even notice. They have other priorities—and for them the real show starts when the Thunderbirds hit the ice.

Project Credits

Project ShoWare Center, Kent, Wash.
Client City of Kent
Client's Representative Shiels Obletz Johnsen, Seattle
Architect LMN Architects, Seattle—Viñoly-Menendez, Kristi Paulson (project designers); Michael Petersen (project architect); John Woloszyn (technical architect); Todd Charlton, Caleb Menge, Marion Gee (architects); Robin Dalton, Dawn Polak (interior designers)
General Contractor Mortenson
Ice Sheet/Bowl Design Consultant PBK Architects
Structural/Civil Engineer Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Mechanical Engineer Wood Harbinger
Electrical/Acoustical Engineer Sparling
Geotechnical Engineer Shannon & Wilson
Landscape Architect Site Workshop
Electrical/Mechanical Consultant Genivar
Lighting Consultant Candela
Graphics/Signage Widmeyer Design
Food Service William Caruso + Associates
Code Consultant Flack+Kurtz
Cost Consultant Davis Langdon
Sustainability Consultant Paladino & Co.
Size 154,400 square feet
Cost $63 million

Linear In-Ground, Street 15, LED Lighting
Aldabra Contemporary Lighting Technology
LMN Architects used bright green LED lighting to track the entrance paths through the parking lot and into the ShoWare Center concourse. Highly efficient at just 5 watts per meter, the linear in-ground LEDs provide a theatrical splash with a low energy load.

Wall-Mounted Water Closet and Touchless Lite Urinal
When more than 6,000 hockey fans fill ShoWare, you can be sure the public restrooms see some action. To conserve water, LMN Architects chose the water-efficient low-flow Bardon toilet from Kohler, equipped with a Sloan Valve dual-flushometer. Each fixture is equipped with a push-down handle for a full flush and lift-up handle for reduced flush. In the men’s room, low-flow urinals use a mere half gallon per flush.

Interior Enviro-Coat Paint
Kelly-Moore Paints
Surfaces throughout the building are painted with Enviro-Coat paint. With low-VOC off-gassing and antimicrobial properties to control odor, the acrylic wall paint promotes good indoor air quality. The paint also resists film attack by mildew, an important factor in the damp Pacific Northwest.

PureBond Plywood Architectural Millwork
Columbia Forest Products
Drawing on the resources of the Pacific Northwest’s forests, the architects specified Columbia’s PureBond plywood for the Thunderbirds’ locker room. The manufacturer uses sustainable harvesting practices, making its plywood LEED compliant and FSC certified. To maintain good air quality in the arena, the product is formaldehyde-free.