An exterior view of the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, the first zero-carbon facility of its kind in the world.It turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks, at least when it comes to helping the climate.

Originally built in 1962 for the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle, the Washington State Pavilion has undergone many changes over the years, first as the Coliseum and then as Key Arena.

And while the sprawling sail-like hyperbolic paraboloid roof and gravity-defying pillars that support it are all that’s left of the original structure, the fully remodeled Climate Pledge Arena can now lay claim to being the first zero-carbon arena in the world.

Given that the 800,000-square-foot arena has had many lives, the fact that the structure, which once showed the world what Washington State would be like in the future, has met the future of climate change head-on.

The plan was audacious from the start and was undertaken as the pandemic began to spread, making the project a logistical challenge as supply chains were disrupted and workers had to deal with COVID and public health orders. The interior of the building was gutted, and the floor was lowered to increase capacity rather than raising the room, which would have changed its landmark status as a fair relic.

To achieve Zero Carbon certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), the Climate Pledge Arena had to use low-carbon materials in its construction and operate in an energy-efficient manner. Any carbon impacts created during construction had to have offsets to cancel them out in order to achieve zero carbon bragging rights.

This meant installing solar panels on the roof and purchasing clean power from sources such as Puget Sound Energy’s Lower Snake River wind farm. To further its zero carbon goal, drink and food containers had to be recyclable and a 15,000-gallon cistern was added to capture rainwater from the roof so it could become ice for Seattle Kraken hockey games. A large botanical wall and messaging on the large screen monitors remind concert and game attendees to do their own part in reducing their personal carbon footprints.

The long-term commitment is to make the facility net zero carbon by 2040 to help meet the state’s 2045 carbon reduction pledge. It seems Climate Pledge Arena is already well on the way.

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