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.