Adelaide oval

Future-proofing world-leading sports stadia

Interview: Stephen Logan on the intricacies of stadium design - lighting and other trends

Etihad Stadium in Melbourne

Stephen Logan is Aurecon’s Building Sciences Leader. He has worked on iconic international stadia projects, including the landmark Wembley National Stadium, Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium and the multi award winning Perth Arena.

Stephen is strongly experienced in designing cost-effective and sustainable engineering solutions for large-scale infrastructure projects, specialising in mechanical and fire safety engineering.

Lighting is critical to stadiums. What is critical in terms of the design of efficient lighting?
Integrating pitch lighting is both a structural and architectural stadium design issue; one that needs to be solved well ahead of construction. Pitch lighting design has a profound effect on roof geometry, so the sooner architects and engineers can identify potential lighting system issues, the better.

The two key considerations of lighting design are (i) ensuring lighting is at the correct height and (ii) achieving uniform vertical and horizontal illumination across the pitch, compliant with a variety of sporting code lighting requirements, including FIFA and the AFL in Australia.

Not getting lighting design right is a very expensive problem to fix. With 75 percent of the cost of a stadium attributed to the structure, the cost of it is strongly affected by roof geometry. Failing to integrate roof height with lighting design could require the design and construction of a lighting support system separate from the roof structure which is not only costly, but also detracts from the structural aesthetic.

Many of our Buildings teams have had the advantage of being both the lighting designer and structural engineer on many of our stadia projects. The ability to work closely with the architect very early on in the design process results in economical, efficient lighting systems that are fully integrated into building support systems; and look good too!

What are some of the challenges inherent in engineering the ‘fan – first’ experience?
From the moment a patron walks in to a stadium, they expect the ability to see and hear all the action and to enjoy it in a comfortable thermal environment, whether they know it or not.

Engineering that experience is a multi-faceted challenge and one that expands with growing patron expectations and the influence of new technologies.

Keeping patrons cool and comfortable is a particularly tricky, yet common, design issue that relies on some clever modelling solutions. Very large stadium roofs are usually required to provide between 80 – 90  percent of under drip line coverage. Combined with steep seating tiers, the upper seating areas of stadiums can be hot, stuffy and extremely uncomfortable without adequate ventilation design.

Getting the cooling concept right will mitigate potential huge expenses to fix incorrect design down the track. Utilising enormous CFD models that require huge computing power, our engineers can produce air flow and temperature models to determine optimum comfort for patrons seated in the upper tiers. Similarly, if a patron is seated a couple of hundred meters away from the pitch, that person is relying on screens to broadcast visuals and the  public address system to broadcast audio. From this distance, however, image and sound from speaker clusters will be out of sync and somewhat distracting for the patron.

Combining the image with the sound in the same time phase relies on a very advanced speaker system that requires meticulous and highly specialised design. Our Acoustics team utilises ‘Ease’, an advanced sound software that simulates what things sound like from difference areas in the stadium. From there, our engineers can accurately determine the dispersal, capacity and type of speakers required around the stadium.

What’s next for stadia design?
Optimising carbon neutral design and engineering for stadiums is the newly emerging design opportunity for engineers.

Stadiums are used sporadically, experiencing peak demand for a few hours on an event day and then no usage for a number of days or, in some cases, weeks.

Because they have very large roofs, the opportunity exists to load them with roof-mounted Photovoltaic Cells to generate power throughout the week. With average sunlight ranging between 2 000-3 000 hours per year, a stadium that is used on average between 150-300 hours per year could offset its carbon emissions completely.

Stadiums are very big structures and long-term assets. Finding sustainable and cost-conscious ways to optimise their utilisation during peak and low use periods is vital to realising their economic benefits.

Read more about Stephen’s experience in designing fire safety engineering on stadium projects

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