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GOLD STANDARD: Interview with Pat Rogan, Levi’s Stadium Director of Engineering Operations

Katie McIntyre chats with Pat Rogan, Director of Engineering Operations for the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s® Stadium – the first home of an NFL team to earn dual LEED Gold certifications – regarding the challenges of operating a 68,500-seat multi-purpose venue…

 

As Director of Engineering Operations for the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s® Stadium, what are your main responsibilities and what does a typical day for you include?

On a daily basis we operate all of the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, kitchens, signage and video boards, elevators and escalators, landscaping, energy management, water savings and usage with recycled systems. Our daily efforts also include maintaining all lighting and HVAC scheduling per events and daily use, construction management and design approvals, project management, fire and life safety, DAS and Wi-Fi systems, warranty control, service calls and preventive maintenance, and basically every nut and bolt responsibility at Levi’s® Stadium.

 

A typical day consists of event meetings, planning for various event schedules, staffing planning, energy management tracking and occupancy locations for various events, payroll, project meetings, as well as stadium surveys for everything listed above.

 

How did you set about developing and subsequently operating what is described as ‘the most technologically built and sustainable stadium in the US’?

I was fortunate to be brought in during the design phase, which allowed me to act as an owners representative alongside our Stadium Manager and VP of Stadium Operations, Jim Mercurio, who had 20-plus years with the team. We were able to attend all bid scope meetings and participate in the selection process for all of the operating systems based on technology, functionality, sustainability and energy management systems.

 

The location being very close to San Francisco was extremely important as well, helping to maintain our San Francisco fan base while tapping into thousands of new fans in Silicon Valley who wanted to come aboard. Everything that was created and initiated in the build process was due to an awesome team effort between us and the project development group. The final outcome is what we believe to be the most technological and sustainable stadium in the country that also happens to be a beautiful design from every aspect.

 

How important was it to create not only a ‘home’ for the 49ers but also a multi-use venue capable of generating revenues outside of game days?

When building a multi-use facility, the primary objective should be around the team for which the venue is being designed. In our case, it was for the San Francisco 49ers, so locker rooms, field, training areas, as well as seat locations for football have to be your main concern.

 

The secondary goals are to utilize all of the spaces available for other revenue-generating operations such as major events like Super Bowl, WrestleMania, soccer games and concerts, along with private events like weddings, parties, corporate meetings, and our STEAM education program that welcomes hundreds of kids every day for science, technology, arts, engineering and math lessons with a football twist.

 

Levi’s® Stadium opened with LEED Gold status and has since been awarded LEED EBO&M Gold operational designation. What are some of the key sustainable strategies, technologies being implement at the stadium?  

We recently received the BO&M designation award below and our announcement release includes a comment that references the importance we put on sustainability at Levi’s® Stadium.

 

 

LEVI’S® STADIUM ACHEIVES LEED GOLD CERTIFICATION FOR OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE OF AN EXISTING BUILDING

Levi’s® Stadium announced October 6, 2016, that is had achieved its second LEED Gold certification from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), this time for operations and maintenance of an existing building. Coupled with Levi’s® Stadium’s initial recognition as the first professional football stadium to open with LEED Gold certification as new construction in August 2014, the home of the San Francisco 49ers is now the first home of an NFL team to earn dual LEED Gold certifications.

 

The LEED rating system, developed by the USGBC, is the foremost program for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance.

 

In conjunction with the second LEED Gold recognition, the 49ers were also recognised by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) as a sports organisation that is contributing to the fight against climate change and its effects on our communities.

 

San Francisco 49ers CEO, Jed York, said at the time:

I strongly believe the 49ers organization has a responsibility to contribute to the improvement of our community and environmental sustainability is one of the most important areas where we can influence positive change. We have a team of professionals who work daily to make sure this building is operated and maintained in an environmentally conscious way. These honors from the USGBC and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy are a testament to their dedication and are consistent with our vision for how Levi’s® Stadium can inspire sustainability in sports facilities around the country.

 

In its press release distributed in October, the OSTP said about the San Francisco 49ers:

In August 2014, Levi’s® Stadium became the first professional football stadium to open with LEED Gold certification for new construction. Today, Levi’s Stadium is announcing that the venue has achieved LEED Gold Certification for Operations and Maintenance of an existing building, making it the first-ever NFL stadium to be LEED Gold certified under the two respective categories by the U.S. Green Building Council.  The stadium is also lowering greenhouse-gas impacts from concessions through their new 4,000 square foot rooftop farm and educating kids on sustainability through its free school STEAM field trip program, serving 60,000 Bay Area K-8 students each year.

 

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. In order to receive LEED certification, building projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Levi’s Stadium achieved LEED certification for implementing practical and measurable strategies aimed at achieving high performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor environmental quality, and maintenance enhancements. LEED Gold status is earned by accumulating 60 to 79 points on the rating system and Levi’s® Stadium had registered a total of 60 upon evaluation of its operations and maintenance.

 

Rick Fedrizzi, Founding Chair and CEO of USGBC, said:

Achieving LEED Gold the first time is a worthy achievement but achieving it a second time, through recertification under LEED for Existing Buildings, is tremendous leadership. Levi’s® Stadium has demonstrated just this kind of leadership, showing a commitment to the kind of ongoing performance improvement that is so critical to our future.  Congratulations on this outstanding accomplishment.

 

Designed by HNTB and constructed by Turner/Devcon, Levi’s® Stadium embodies innovative elements found throughout Silicon Valley. From the 1,000-plus state-of-the-art solar elements found throughout the building, including the three solar array-covered NRG Energy Bridges, to its automatic sensors and high-efficient energy management system, Levi’s® Stadium was designed to be one of the most compelling sports and entertainment venues in the country, all the while maintaining a disciplined green approach to sustainable design elements.

 

To achieve the LEED Gold certification for operations and maintenance of Levi’s® Stadium, the 49ers focused primarily on implementing practical and measurable strategies aimed at achieving high performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor environmental quality, and maintenance enhancements. Over the course of almost a year, the stadium implemented numerous strategies including:

 

  • Installing efficient water fixtures to reduce water consumption by 44%.
  • Offsetting 37% of its electricity and natural gas use with Green-E certified Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and nearly 20,000 square feet of solar panels.
  • Making strides in expanding waste reduction efforts beyond current diversion rate nearly63% waste from the landfill.
  • Achieving a 10.92% reduction in conventional commuting trips as the stadium is within walking distance of various transit options, including buses, VTA light rail, ACE trains and Amtrak.
  • Going well beyond the performance threshold level of existing LEED credits by purchasing 100% Energy Star qualified equipment.
  • Maintaining a sustainable purchasing program for cleaning materials and products, disposable janitorial paper products, and trash bags, where 85.93% of the purchases satisfied sustainability criteria.
  • Developing and implementing an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) management program based on the U.S. EPA standards. The purpose of the IAQ program is to maintain a healthy and comfortable working environment for building occupants.
  • Utilizing filters with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) of 13 which provide higher quality air to occupants and remove pollutants.
  • Using cleaning equipment that are Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Green Label tested and that use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

 

In just over two years of operations, Levi’s® Stadium has received multiple sustainability awards for its use of reclaimed wood and other recycled materials, for its use of reclaimed water, and for implementing sustainability into its supply chain method. For a full list of environmental awards and more information regarding the stadium’s technology and sustainability, please visit: http://49ers.1stroundmediagroup.com/levisstadium/

 

Skyhawk photography

What role does technology play in the engineering operations at Levi’s® Stadium?

The technological infrastructure built into Levi’s® Stadium enables us to maintain operations and logistics with more seamless coordination that any other venue in the business. Advanced technology is behind every single operating system in the building: lighting, HVAC, BMS, work order systems, ISS 24/7 tracking system for calls and PM work, parts ordering, on-site weather station, chemical feeds, kitchen equipment tracking for on/off status, Schneider energy management systems.

 

The strength of our infrastructure is demonstrated by our record-breaking Wi-Fi capabilities throughout the building, enough DAS to provide cell capability for every fan to data stream live time at all events, real-time monitoring of security, parking, and city traffic logistics, as well as a fully interactive team museum with fixtures that enable our guests to be a part of the experience. Our previous home at Candlestick Park was built in a different era without the availability of any of those technologies so we are already well versed on how much more efficiently and effectively a building can be operated with the benefit of advanced technology.

 

How would you describe the challenge of managing the engineering operations for a 68,500-seat stadium (expandable to 75,000) with 174luxury / executive suites?

The biggest challenges come from the variety of events and high expectations for the guests that come to Levi’s® Stadium. We have hosted numerous non-football events that require a different mind-set and personality per production schedule and venue type. The promoters are all very different, as are the performers, and we set the bar very high for ourselves to meet the expectations for the “show”, no matter what event it calls for. For every event we aspire to provide an overall great experience for both the venue producers and the thousands of people who attend these shows.

 

Running sports and entertainment events is so much different than running a million square foot high rise facility that operates Monday through Friday with a standard daily operating plan. This world is unpredictable and you can never let your guard down. No matter what, the show must go on so your staff should always be properly coached and ready for anything related to the infrastructure of the building. We have had events like back-to-back Grateful Dead shows that had 85,000 fans here two days in a row, but that actually wasn’t as much work as a private event that was a corporate employee party for 25,000 people. They are all different and that is what keeps me coming back.

 

How do you keep updated regarding the latest best practices and products, services and solutions?

We are always looking into upgrading our building systems to stay ahead of the curve. We visit trade shows, review vendor upgrades, discuss new ideas and best practices with staff, and listen to new pitches for stadium related energy savings and the pay-back process.

 

We also review and consult with industry resources like stadium managers, the Green Sports Alliance, the Silicon Valley Water companies, recycling plant information and waste diversion meetings, and trade journals and web sites like Sports Business Journal and Sports Venue Business.

 

Advice I was taught a long time ago was to always listen to an employee when they feel that something new or old that worked for them in the past may be something that can better your operation.

 

Obviously the stadium is only 2 years old, but what future development plans are on the boards?

We are always looking for a project that would better the stadium and increase the fan experience. When a stadium is built on a strict budget, certain developmental finishes may get value-engineered out of the process. Planning starts right away into looking into adding areas or changing areas due to different corporate sponsorship throughout the fan experience areas of the building.

 

The answer will always be ‘yes’ but the projects will always be different.

 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

When I went through a comprehensive high-rise fire life safety program in 1986, the instructor told us “There is no such word as panic. Panic is for the people that will follow you out of a burning building or any other non-normal occurrence and you need to get them focused on your skills to make them believe that you are the one to do this.” I always remembered that advice and will live by that code every day I’m working in the industry.

 

That sounds like a life motto to live by. And if you had to give one piece of advice to an industry peer, what would it be and why? 

You should enjoy what you are doing at all times in our profession. There are only a handful of operations positions in the world within a pro-sporting venue, we chose it as much as it chooses us. I believe in destiny and karma at the same time and it has always kept me on this path.

 

Pat Rogan is Director of Engineering Operations for the San Francisco 49ers Levi’s Stadium

 

 

Images, courtesy: San Francisco 49ers

 

Many thanks to Pat Rogan and the San Francisco 49ers for their assistance in putting this piece together.

 

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