Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum isn’t just for fans of the home team, the Bucks, but for fans of the birds too. When the team was planning its new arena in the mid-2010s, the local organization Bird City Wisconsin planted the seed of making the new building safe for birds. The Bucks carried through with this idea and designed the Fiserv Forum to be the world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment venue, as the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) designated it in 2018.
Statistics have shown around one billion birds in America – somewhere between 5%-10% of the entire nation’s population – die each year after colliding with glass. Besides reducing the population, these bird deaths trigger a domino effect that negatively impacts seed distribution, pollination, and other aspects of nature’s life cycle. Reflective or see-through glass is one cause of these fatal bird collisions. Lighting disorients birds, which is especially problematic during their night-time spring and fall migrations. Bird migration is particularly significant in the Milwaukee area because it is a crucial flyway spot for migrating birds along the Great Lakes.
To reduce reflectiveness on the arena’s exterior, a thin ceramic coating pattern known as fritting was applied to the building’s glass panes. While invisible to the human eye, fritting is detectable to birds and allows them to avoid flying into glass windows.
The Fiserv’s outside lights were aimed downward to make the arena more visible to birds. Another approach taken to prevent the building from disorienting flying birds was instituting a lights-out policy at night during the migration seasons. “The Milwaukee Bucks have demonstrated outstanding conservation leadership and shown that it can build a world-class facility with birds in mind,” ABC’s Bryan Lenz stated. “We hope that their example will inspire others to take action.”
Fritting and lighting choices also reduce energy usage, which fits in with the Bucks’ sustainability mission. Concern for the environment was evident in the Bucks’ emphasis on choosing regionally sourced, upcycled construction materials that decrease emissions. Achieving these aims was made possible through partnerships with non-profits like Wisconsin Urban Wood. The work consists of utilizing local white oat throughout the main and upper concourses and repurposed wood in its exclusive BMO Club.
Design elements, like the building’s heat recovery technology, cut heat usage by 12%.
Installing low-flow toilets decreased water consumption by over 30%, while outdoor water use was lessened by landscaping with native plants. The arena complex also features a parking lot with EV charging stations and carpool spaces that help lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Its recycling program included compostable packaging and the banning of plastic straws. “We are committed to protecting our environment by enacting eco-friendly initiative[s],” the arena’s general manager 2018, Raj Saha told Sustainability Report.
These measures helped the Fiserv Forum receive a Silver LEED from the US Green Building Council in 2019, making it the first Wisconsin sports and entertainment venue to achieve such an accomplishment. That year, the Bucks’ training center also earned a Silver LEED. “Fiserv Forum’s LEED certification demonstrates tremendous green building leadership,” stated Mahesh Ramanujam, USGBC president, and CEO. “Fiserv Forum serves as a prime example of how the work of innovative building projects can use local solutions to make a global impact on the environment.”
To keep improving their sustainability programs, the Bucks organization collaborated with Greenwood Consulting Group, a woman-owned, certified sustainability consulting firm, to devise a monitoring system that tracks performance regarding energy, water, waste, transportation, and human experience. “Now more than ever, the benefits of investing in high-quality, healthy buildings are critical to the community at large,” said Sara Greenwood, Principal of Greenwood Consulting Group. “Fiserv Forum has demonstrated a commitment to transparency when it comes to health and building operations, which is very commendable!”
The team also demonstrated its sustainability commitment by partnering with SC Johnson in 2021 to improve the cleaning and recycling operations at Fiserv Forum. As part of the deal, SC Johnson is providing cleaning products and training its staff to make sure the arena is properly cleaned. Additionally, branded Bucks and SC Johnson polyethylene terephthalate (PET) cups were introduced at events and neighborhood businesses. At least one million PET cups will get recycled and turned into 100% post-consumer recycled bottles for Scrubbing Bubble bottles. Special bins have been placed all around the arena and in the surrounding area to further aid in the recycling effort.
In 2022, the USGBC upgraded the Fiserv Forum’s certification level to a Gold in recognition of “its improved environmental design and operation.” “Plastic waste is one of the great environmental challenges we face today,” stated SC Johnson chairman and CEO H. Fisk Johnson. “It’s especially gratifying that this work contributed to Fiserv Forum’s LEED Gold certification.” The arena’s Gold score landed just 5 points short of a Platinum certification, so the Bucks are close to scoring the ultimate LEED honor, just as the team won the 2020-21 season’s ultimate prize, Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy.