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FIFA aims to inspire greater awareness and best practice in sustainability standards in football globally.

This means a balanced approach to the three dimensions of sustainability:

• Social development

• Environmental protection

• Economic development

The main focus of this section falls on the environmental protection aspects of sustainability, which are more deeply affected by the design of a stadium.

It is important to build sustainable stadiums as part of the global effort for a sustainable future. One of the most important decisions a stadium developer can make is whether to build at all. Having committed to build, we should then strive to build the most efficient sustainable solution possible with the minimum needed to achieve the established goals. In Sub-Section 2.7.1, we explore sustainable stadium solutions by considering five key environmental topics, before considering economic sustainability and human rights and labour standards. The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a particularly useful framework and are cross-referenced to various sections of the guidelines as outlined in Sub-Section 2.7.2. The impact of climate change is discussed in Section 1.2. Finally, at the outset of the project, the stadium developer should consider assessing the stadium design using a green building certification system. The benefits of such systems are described in Sub-Section 2.7.2.



Westhills Stadium

This stadium in Canada was constructed using 4,060 cubic metres of wood products, avoiding 1,370 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that would have otherwise have been released into the atmosphere through the specification of less sustainable materials.


If an existing stadium can be refurbished, while keeping the majority of the primary structure intact, this approach can often lead to a sustainable solution. However, for many reasons, refurbishing an old stadium can be more challenging than refurbishing other building types.

To deliver a sustainable solution, stadium developers need to ask their design teams some important questions. How does my stadium perform? What are the environmental impacts of my stadium? What is the carbon cost of my stadium? Is my stadium environmentally friendly? To be able to answer these questions, efficient design, accurate computer modelling and careful assessment of the design are required.

All stadium projects need a sustainability champion. This is often the client, architect or sustainability consultant, who should help to set the sustainability agenda. It is important to set sustainability targets that can be tracked and recorded through the design stages. Stadium design teams should report on the key sustainability topics of carbon, water, energy, waste and ecology.

When the stadium is complete and the sustainability goals have been achieved, it is important to publicise the design and share data on how the stadium performs so that others can learn from its success.


The embodied carbon of a material is the sum of all of the CO₂ emissions created in the extraction, refinement, manufacture, delivery, installation, maintenance, demolition and eventual disposal of that material. These stages define the material’s life cycle. Measuring this is known as defining the whole-life carbon of the material.


Al Bayt Stadium

The design of this stadium in Qatar was adapted to incorporate a lighter-coloured facade, which resulted in a much more energy-efficient building.

Stadiums traditionally contain a large amount of embodied carbon, primarily within the structure. This is because heavy structures (terracing) are needed to accommodate the many people who will attend the event, and accompanying roof structures are often long-span or cantilever structures requiring support from large foundations.

Sustainable stadium design seeks to reduce the project’s embodied carbon, and the first step in achieving this is to predict the carbon cost of the scheme using an internationally recognised method of measurement. The total amount of embodied energy contained within the scheme should be reassessed at each design stage, as it often increases as the design develops.

A stadium project should try to reduce the amount of embodied carbon as much as possible, and the following options could be considered in doing this:

• Optimising the form of the stadium

• Replacing steel and concrete frames with timber alternatives where safe and appropriate within the design and subject to compliance with fire safety standards

• Carrying out lifecycle costing, which involves considering capital, maintenance and replacement costs when choosing products and materials

• Change material suppliers – finding suppliers who use renewable energy to develop their products and/or are located closer to the stadium site

• Choosing different materials e.g. replacing cement within concrete with an alternative lower-carbon product if one is available nearby

Whilst there is no defined industry standard for stadiums at the time of writing, a review of various sources shows that a large, low-carbon stadium is recommended to have no more than 1,000kg CO₂e per m2. Medium-sized stadiums are recommended to have no more than 750kg CO₂e per m2, measured using an internationally recognised standard. These figures are likely to fall as low-carbon technology develops.

After removing as much embodied carbon as possible from the scheme during the design stage, stadium developers could consider offsetting the remaining embodied carbon upon completion of the project. This involves buying into schemes that remove carbon from the atmosphere. The cost of carbon offsetting varies, and internationally recognised schemes should be pursued.

The Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, has a 3MW battery that helps power the stadium.


Reducing energy consumption is also critical to lowering carbon emissions. With energy costs rising in many parts of the world, reducing energy consumption also makes financial sense.

A sustainable stadium should be designed with a compact, simple, high-performance thermal envelope. One simple step that designers can take to reduce energy usage is to ensure that all heated spaces are grouped together. Having orientated the stadium correctly, its facades should also be designed to ensure that unwanted solar gain and heat loss is avoided.

All of the fittings used within the stadium should be energy-efficient and installed correctly to maximise their performance. Fittings should be monitored and controlled to ensure that there is no wastage. Larger stadiums will have a building management system (BMS) to assist with this.

Sustainable stadiums are powered by using renewable energy rather than fossil fuels like gas. Common renewable energy sources are photovoltaic (PV) panels, geothermal, wind power, hydrothermal and solar thermal. Whenever available, stadiums should select a utility power supply retailer and contract which is based on renewable energy.

As much energy as possible should be generated on-site to reduce the stadium’s demand on the local energy network. Consideration should also be given as to how on-site renewable energy will be stored or used.

Stadium developers should consider investing in battery systems so that renewable energy can be stored on-site, ready for use during the short periods when the stadium is at its maximum capacity and demand is high. These same battery systems could provide power resiliency and back-up to critical systems at the stadium, instead of diesel or oil-burning back-up generators.

Some stadiums use old electric car batteries, which despite no longer having the capacity to drive cars, contain sufficient energy to power stadiums.

Stadiums are an unusual building type in that they only operate at full capacity on event days. This can be for a small number of days per year. For most of a stadium’s lifespan, only a fraction of its infrastructure capacity is used. By reducing the maximum peak load that the stadium uses, the infrastructure requirements can be reduced. Additionally, good use of this spare infrastructure capacity should be considered, for example, a project may offer electric vehicle-charging spaces within the stadium car park for the local community.

Water-saving fittings can be used in a stadium bathroom.


Water is a scarce commodity in many parts of the world. Water usage also has a carbon footprint because energy is needed to clean and transport it. For these reasons, a sustainable stadium seeks to reduce its potable water use to a minimum.

One of the biggest uses of water in stadiums relates to sanitary and catering facilities to serve a large crowd. Section 5.6 considers the management of water for these facilities.

Additionally, stadium designers should carefully consider how much glass is incorporated into the facade of the building in order to minimise the amount of water needed to clean it.

Water will also be needed to irrigate the landscape around the stadium. Planting is generally a positive thing to do, however, plant species should be carefully selected. Ideally. indigenous plants should be used, and in hot countries the plants should be drought-resistant. If regular watering is required, efficient, controlled irrigation systems should be used rather than manual hosing because this uses more water. The requirements for watering the pitch are discussed in Section 2.4.

In some countries, it is possible to install systems on the roof of a stadium to capture rainwater, which can then be used to replace potable water use in certain stadium functions.

Wastewater, also known as greywater, can be recycled on-site and reused for some stadium functions. Greywater processing systems require specialist advice from a public health engineer.

Stormwater should be managed on-site to prevent the pollution of local watercourses. Pollution usually occurs when stormwater washes pollutants off hard surfaces into rivers and streams. This can be mitigated by deploying permeable surfaces, which slow the rate of run-off.

To prevent local flooding, stormwater should be stored on-site before it is released into the local drainage system. This is normally achieved by using underground water storage tanks, however, innovative landscape solutions such as rain gardens and swales are a more sustainable solution and should be investigated where the space is available.

Al Janoub Stadium, Qatar
Water efficiency is increased in this stadium by the use of waterless urinals and dual-flush toilets.


The ecological value of land is a measure of how much biodiversity it can support. Biodiversity is the amount and variety of plant and animal life on the land. Stadium designers can help reduce declines in biodiversity around the world through the sustainable sourcing of construction materials and by increasing the amount of planting in, on and around stadiums.

As discussed in Sub-Section 1.3.5, stadiums should not be built on areas of high ecological value, and areas of the stadium site that have a high ecological value should be preserved. Stadiums should not be built with products that cause biodiversity loss. Special care should be taken with wood products. Stadium designers should never use tropical hardwoods or any wood that is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) “red list”. It is recommended that all timber used in a stadium project has an internationally recognised sustainable sourcing certificate.

Large stadium sites often present the opportunity to create green corridors within a local area.

Green corridors are areas of planting on the site that connect to adjacent planted sites, helping wildlife to move between them.

As well as enhancing biodiversity, planting delivers positive messaging, reduces air pollution in its location and absorbs CO₂. One of the most popular ways to deliver planting on stadium developments is in the form of “green” facades and roofs. The weight of these features should be considered, especially on long-span structures, as the additional structural material and its embodied carbon counteracts some of the benefits of the planting.

Stadium designers could consider creating habitats that encourage local wildlife to thrive, such as bird and bat boxes and insect hotels. The most suitable type of habitat creation will vary depending on the region. These features can also be used to help connect with younger supporters and for educational purposes within the community. Care should be taken to place wildlife habitats away from areas that will be disturbed by crowds or light pollution from the stadium.


Managing waste is a problem for many countries around the world. Waste exacerbates issues around global resource scarcity. It is important that stadium designers make efficient use of the materials required to build a sustainable stadium and reduce the amount of waste created in the process.

Stadium designers should use materials that are easy to recycle so that any waste that is produced can be diverted from landfill. An awareness of the dimensional properties of a material can help to reduce the number of offcuts that are produced. Changing the specification of material can help to reduce waste. For example, specifying precast concrete rather than in situ concrete to reduce the waste associated with single-use shuttering.

The stadium contractor should set ambitious waste reduction and waste recycling targets. If existing structures need to be demolished to make way for a new stadium, as much of the demolition waste as possible should be reused.

Innovative design solutions could be considered to promote a circular economy, where products are not discarded as waste at the end of their life. Instead, they are kept within the economy and reused. An example of this is reusing sections of oil pipeline to make large, tubular stadium roof trusses.

Economic sustainability

Economic sustainability is the justification of using Earth’s material resources for society’s long-term benefit. The least sustainable economic outcome for a stadium development is one which involves the limited use of the building within a short lifespan, before further redevelopment or demolition. The following questions should be answered in determining whether a stadium is economically sustainable.

• Is the stadium development supporting a club that is an integral part of the fabric of the local community?

• Is the stadium development being used as a driver for the wider regeneration of an area?

• Is the stadium supporting a wide range of commercial functions beyond its primary function of hosting sport?

• Is the stadium development creating new jobs within the local community?

Human rights and labour standards

Any entity building a stadium has a responsibility to respect human rights throughout its operations in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (see here). This means that adequate measures should be taken to prevent and mitigate potential harm to people and to cooperate in remediation where the entity has caused or contributed to harm that may have occurred.

The most salient human rights risk areas associated with the building of stadiums are (a) labour rights of workers involved in construction, as well as (b) impacts linked to the potential resettlement of people. With respect to labour rights, all entities building the stadium shall take adequate due diligence measures to ensure compliance with national labour law by all companies involved in the project. Where required to ensure decent working conditions for workers, enhanced measures shall be taken in accordance with the IFC Performance Standard 2 on Labour and Working Conditions (see here).

All entities building stadiums must furthermore ensure compliance with any national legislation on land acquisition and, as relevant, involuntary resettlement. Where required to avoid adverse impacts on people in situations of particular vulnerability, the IFC Performance Standard 5 on Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement provides guidance on how to ensure that people‘s rights are respected in the process (see here).

Measures to ensure respect for the rights of workers and communities may require collaboration with external expert entities. Furthermore, these measures shall be informed by meaningful engagement with those who are at risk of being affected. Experience shows that taking proactive and effective measures to avoid harm to people is not only ethically the right thing to do but also helps to avoid delays in construction and associated costs.


United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainability requires that all developments, including stadiums, deliver a better future across all sectors of society. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out 17 priorities for action. These strive to achieve a better, more sustainable future for all members of society and cover the three dimensions of sustainability mentioned above. From a social perspective, the advice in these guidelines can assist a stadium developer in addressing the following UN SDGs. Some of the issues in Figure 2.7.1 will overlap with environmental protection aspects discussed in the previous sections of this chapter.

Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
The first stadium in the world to receive LEED v4 Gold certification for sustainability and Australia’s first LEED v4 Gold building

Green building certification

Green building certification (GBC) is an assessment system for recording the environmental performance of existing and new developments. Different aspects of the stadium design are assessed based on published criteria and given a score, which then translates into a level of achievement. Stadiums are usually awarded certificates of achievement by the body that administers the system.



Affordable and clean energy

Requiring stadiums to run on clean energy (Sub-Section 2.7.1) promotes the growth of the renewable energy sector. Stadiums themselves can be a source of affordable, reliable and renewable energy.



Decent work and economic growth

The stadium can provide many procurement and employment opportunities during construction (contractor appointment) through to operations (operations and workforce). These should favour local, ethical and sustainable procurement that promotes inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.



Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Stadium developments can be a catalyst for development or regeneration (Section 1.4) that creates resilient infrastructure and fosters innovation, generating employment and income. The entire stadium should be designed to be a sustainable piece of infrastructure.



Sustainable cities and communities

The masterplanning process (Section 1.4) considers the stadium within its location and community. Designing accessible, multi-use stadiums (Section 1.7) which include community facilities can help make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.



Responsible consumption and production

Efficient stadium design strives to minimise use of global resources (Sub-Section 2.7.1) and seeks to reduce waste (Sub-Section 2.7.1). This is a responsible approach to consumption and production.



Climate action

Reducing embodied carbon and energy use will help combat climate change (Section 1.2) and its impacts (Sub-Section 2.7.1).



Life below water

Designing stadiums that avoid causing water pollution can help to sustain marine resources (Sub-Section 2.7.1).



Life on land

Stadium developments should improve the biodiversity value of their site (Sub-Section 2.7.1). This will help to halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.



Partnerships for the goals

Stadiums support influential clubs that could form strong local regional and global partnerships and promote all of the sustainable development goals (Section 1.1). Stadiums are often high profile (in some cases globally recognised iconic landmarks), therefore they are an ideal platform for partners to promote sustainability and share best practice (Section 4.8).


The key benefit of using a GBC system is that it ensures that important sustainability issues are addressed within the stadium design. Certification is an effective method of standardising how environmental sustainability is measured. The systems are audited by the administrators, which ensures that claims that a design is sustainable can be verified, and the assessment systems include detailed guidance that can be followed by project teams.

Guidance for applying GBC systems

The decision to apply for a GBC should be made at the outset of the project. Introducing the requirement later in the project may reduce the effectiveness of the certification by making it harder and more expensive to achieve.

Certification schemes are designed to fit all building types, but the requirements of a stadium do not always fit the assessment criteria. Key features of a stadium that are not generally addressed by GBC schemes include:

• The unusual patterns of stadium use

• The high occupancy of a stadium on a matchday

• The unique structural requirements of a stadium

Having a member of the design team who is familiar with the certification scheme, often referred to as an accredited professional, can assist greatly in implementing the scheme requirements.

Obtaining a GBC for a stadium project addresses environmental sustainability issues required by the assessment system. Nevertheless, the following points should also be considered in developing a sustainable stadium solution:

• The economic and social aspects of sustainability

• Development of project and stadium-specific goals for the topics discussed in Section 2.7.1


Acquiring a GBC will add some costs to the project. However, it should not add significant capital cost to the construction, provided that the design already addresses many of the scheme requirements. This is why designers should know at the outset of the project whether the design will be assessed against the criteria of a sustainability scheme.

Achieving higher levels of certification can add to the capital cost of the project, as more expensive sustainability features need to be present in the building, although a sustainable stadium design is likely to already have these features.

Stadium designers should avoid adding sustainability features that do not complement the design of the project in pursuit of higher levels of certification.

The additional costs that will be incurred by committing to certification are as follows:

• Providing evidence of compliance with the certification scheme can add to design team costs.

• The certification scheme is likely to charge a registration and assessment fee.

• Requiring certification can add to the management costs incurred by the contractor.

• An assessor may need to be employed or additional services required from an existing member of the design team to carry out the assessment.

Figure 2.7.2
Map showing regional green building certification schemes around the world

Which GBC scheme to use?

A wide range of GBC schemes have been developed across the world, each reflecting the needs and priorities of their target regions. A selection of the main schemes, along with the regions they are designed to cover, are shown in Figure 2.7.2.

When considering which certification to pursue, priority should be given to regional certification schemes, where available.

These schemes can be effective tools for capturing the local sustainability context, as they often encourage particular methods of design and construction and measure success in different ways.

If the relevant regional scheme is not appropriate (or available), other international schemes can be used.

The Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) has explicit compliance routes developed for projects in different territories. This includes Regional Priority credits, which have been identified as having additional regional importance. Where this route is chosen, it is recommended that at least two of these credits are targeted.

Level of certification

GBC recommendations for FIFA stadium categories reflect the scale and scope of the environmental impact of the stadium. Bigger stadiums generally have a bigger environmental impact, and therefore a higher level of certification is appropriate. Smaller stadiums usually have a smaller ecological footprint, however, a careful review of the most important sustainability issues is essential. Refer to Section 7.1 for the Stadium Category Matrix.