To call the Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) in Atlanta “the Mercedes-Benz of green stadiums” may sound like a hokey compliment, but it is also accurate. Home to the NFL’s Falcons and the MLS’s United, MBS epitomizes the modern, eco-wise sports venue.
Soon after it opened in 2017, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) made MBS the first professional sports stadium to earn a Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the highest level that the USGBC awards. Its 88 LEED points also rank as the most by a sports facility.
“We set a goal of achieving the highest LEED rating because it was the right thing to do for our city and the environment,” stated Arthur Blank, Falcons and United owner. “With this achievement, we have a powerful new platform to showcase to the industry and to our fans that building sustainably and responsibly is possible for a venue of any type, size, and scale.”
MBS was conceived, built, and operates as a sustainable sports venue. “Everything about this building was designed very intentionally to be innovative and groundbreaking from an environmental standpoint,” explained Scott Jenkins, Green Sports Alliance chairman and then MBS general manager.
The stadium was built within .7 miles of three rapid transit stations, encouraging mass transit usage. MBS also boasts enough electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to charge 48 EVs simultaneously, along with 250 bike racks, a gameday bike valet service, and an off-road trail for cyclists and pedestrians.
As part of its Platinum LEED certification, MBS achieved all the possible water credits, a first for a sports facility.
Water was a crucial design issue because it’s located in downtown Atlanta where flooding had been a continual problem.
MBS contains a cutting-edge stormwater management program featuring bioswales, a 2.1-million-gallon stormwater vault, and a 680,000-gallon cistern that collects and reuses rainwater for irrigation and a cooling tower. Coupled with installing water-efficient plumbing fixtures, the venue could cut domestic water usage by 47%.
The eye-catching, energy-reducing “Window to the City” wall spans 160,000 square feet and allows substantial natural light, lowering the electrical needs on game and non-game days.
However, MBS’s energy conservation system shines brightest with the 4,000 solar panels that annually create more than 1.5 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy. They serve to decrease emissions along with delivering renewable energy to the Georgia Power grid.
The panels also have been placed at eye level to raise clean energy awareness among fans. Overall, MBS’s energy measures cut electrical consumption by nearly a third.
The facility isn’t simply interested in educating the current generation of fans on sustainability, but the next ones, too. An edible landscape and an onsite urban garden are outside the stadium and used as a hands-on laboratory for the neighborhood’s Westside Works Culinary program and MBS’s AGSTEM program, which is part of the overall STEAM-based curriculum for students in grades 3–12.
Becoming a zero-waste facility was a founding mission of MBS. The Resource Recovery Room is dedicated to sorting all collected bottles, cans, and plastics and recycling them correctly. Similarly, food waste and other organic materials are separated and composted by Gainesville Waste and Recycling.
In 2022, Gainesville brought this composted soil to the facility, where it was used in the urban garden. The stadium uses the Atlanta-based Center for Hard to Recycle Materials to keep problematic items, like paint, batteries, and electronic waste, out of landfills.
Additionally, the team has worked with Second Helpings Atlanta to collect unused and prepared food after games — more than 130,000 meals have been delivered to residents.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s zero-waste goal became a reality from March through June 2022 when it diverted more than 90% of its waste from landfills. This accomplishment did not go unnoticed.
Last year saw MBS being awarded Trailblazer Award for leadership in sustainability by the Green Sports Alliance and winning two Play to Zero Awards at the Green Sports Alliance Summit. In 2022, it also became the first stadium in pro sports to receive Green Business Certification Inc.’s Total Resource Use and Efficiency precertification for its zero-waste efforts.
“Since construction, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has been committed to creating a sustainable environment both in and around the stadium to reduce our overall environmental footprint,” stated Dietmar Exler, MBS chief operating officer. “This is just the next step in our overall journey.”