24 March 2020
Even football’s going green. Sport and eco-sustainability have scored a record double goal with the world’s first all-wood, zero impact stadium. The Eco Park Stadium was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects for the football club Forest Green Rovers, in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. With other similar ventures under its belt, such as the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 London Olympics, and the Arena Stadium for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Zaha Hadid Architects competed against 50 other practices for the project, which it won in 2016 on the grounds that it fully responded to the ethical values of the club, and of its chairman, the founder of Ecotricity, the UK’s leading green energy company. Actively involved in the fight against pollution, Dale Vince was bound to want a sports facility that would cut emissions to the absolute minimum for his club, which is already famous for being the world’s first vegan football club, and its athletes have played an active part in ecological battles within the area, culminating in the building of their own stadium,
A holistic approach was taken to the Eco Park Stadium in order to preserve its rural character and maximise its sustainability, making it the world’s first United Nations climate-neutral football club. The design project is conceptually akin to the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, in terms of being an eco-compatible facility boasting green technology and recyclable materials. It also features green solutions right down to the smallest detail, from the all-wood cantilevered roof structure to the cladding, the stands, the flooring and the fitments. All the wood comes from sustainable sources, cutting carbon emissions to a minimum. The stadium is covered by a transparent membrane, minimising the visual impact of the complex on the area and allowing it to blend into the surrounding countryside, as well as guaranteeing shade for the spectators, while allowing the grass on the playing field to grow evenly.
Zaha Hadid Architects did not merely design the 5,000-seat stadium (which can be extended to seat 10,000), they also envisioned its prospects for strong growth – the investment is worth 100 million pounds sterling – which will help boost the life of the local community, not just on match days but throughout the year. The project also provides for a science centre and retail spaces and will run entirely on its own sustainably generated energy. The Eco Park Stadium will also include sports facilities open to the public, a business technology park, offices and restaurants - all created according to bio-architectural criteria - and even a nature reserve. It will be amply served by public transport and has the potential to create 4,000 jobs. All it needs now is another goal!