The arena

Pittsburgh hockey facility secures LEED Gold with daylighting
Katy Devlin
October 5, 2010

The Consol Energy Center is the first in the NHL to receive the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification, with 42 LEED points.

The new Consol Energy Center, home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, marks a first for green sports arena design. The six-level, 735,000-square-foot arena is the first in the National Hockey League to receive the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification, according to officials from Kawneer Co., Norcross, Ga.

Glass factored heavily into the green design of the $321 million arena, designed by Kansas City, Mo.-based architecture firm Populous, and Pittsburgh-based architectural firm Astorino. Of the 42 LEED points, nine were for indoor environmental quality, in which daylighting and thermal performance play a major role.

"The main thing is we wanted to create was an arena that was not only a great place to spend time, but also environmentally friendly," says Populous architect Jason Carmello. "Glass helps in both facets. It offers great views to the city skyline, and the products we selected help with energy performance."

The arena's prominent west-facing façade features an expansive curved curtain wall that offers views of downtown. The glass façade encloses an open atrium space, with two entrances and circulation paths. All visitors enter the building there and walk through the atrium to their seats.

"It's not an intense amount of light, but the natural daylight in that area provided us the opportunity to not have that many [artificial] lights in the atrium space," Carmello says. "The glass is a very large volume. It creates views, and allows the sun to come in during the afternoon and early evening."

To allow natural daylighting to reach deeper into the arena, the concourses are open to the stadium itself, allowing visitors to stay connected to the game when they leave their seats, according to Kawneer officials.

The expansive serpentine-like façade represents the three rivers that flow through Pittsburgh. "The curved and linear shape helped drive that architectural form. Because of the way the building cascades down the hill, it acts as running water," Carmello says. "The glass, the curved wall, is the trademark of the building."

The curtain wall feature large lites of 1-inch insulating glass, measuring roughly 12 feet by 4 feet. The glass is Solarban Z50, solar control low-emissivity glass, from PPG Industries, Pittsburgh. Each lite weighs about 350 pounds, says Tom Kesler, project manager for glazing contractor Universal Glass and Metals Inc., Detroit. D-M Products Inc., Bethel Park, Pa., bid the job with Universal Glass, and installed the curtain wall framing.

"These are large pieces of glass, and the curtain wall follows the serpentine shape while going up a steep hill," Kesler says. "That side of the job was the real bear, as we faced challenges getting access to the job site, working off the hill, with heavy pieces of glass. ... We used a crane to set the glass, in conjunction with swing stages and lifts. We also had to consider soil retention, working on the slope."

The curved design of the curtain wall also presented challenges for Kawneer, the framing supplier, says Scott Pence, project manager, Kawneer. Kawneer's 1600 Wall System 1 curtain wall was used along the entire downtown-facing façade. "The wall featured multiple curves and radii, requiring several adjustments to the drawings," he says. "But, we were able to strike a balance between the architects' visions and the building functions that looked great on the finished product."

The arena also features Kawneer's Trifab VersaGlaze 451T framing, with an IsoLock thermal break, for thermal performance and energy efficiency. To match the team colors, the curtain wall and several sunshades were painted Champagne Gold. For the interior, Kawneer supplied its 500 Heavy Wall Entrances, designed for heavy traffic areas. The entrances feature five-inch vertical stiles and 3/16-inch walls throughout for additional strength.

The arena also features sunshades to control daylighting on the segment of the curtain wall that encloses the offices. "They allow the offices to get the most natural daylight without glare," Carmello says. The sunshade system is Kawneer's 1600 SunShade, with a 30-inch projection.

Consol Energy Center replaces Mellon Arena, the oldest NHL venue, according to Pittsburgh Hockey. It opened in August.

PJ Dick Inc., Pittsburgh, and Hunt Construction Group, Scottsdale, Ariz., served jointly as construction managers, and Icon Venue Group, Greenwood Village, Colo., was the project management firm. 

Katy Devlin is editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at

  • An expert opinion

    The concept of bringing natural light into sports facilities is certainly becoming more of a design trend. I think back to structures like the Superdome in New Orleans and there is virtually no daylight. Once you leave the entrance areas, there is no natural light. This project, the Reliant Center in Houston that has four areas in the building with natural light that you can see from your seat, and the new Cowboys Stadium in Dallas are full of natural daylighting. I think it's so important to have those ties to natural light. In this project, I like the idea of the surrounding concourse that offers that natural light around the arena. 

    --Greg Carney, owner, C.G. Carney Associates, Gulfport, Miss.