In Texas, football is king, and a soccer stadium won’t get a lot of traction—unless it happens to feature outstanding architecture. The sports experts at Populous were hired by the ICON Venue Group in conjunction with the City of Houston and the Dynamo Soccer Team to make the BBVA Compass Stadium an icon that serves as the east side anchor of Houston’s Downtown Redevelopment Plan. If the pressure to produce an architecturally significant building wasn’t enough, Populous was limited to a $95 million budget. That’s tight for a stadium—New Jersey’s Red Bull Arena cost $200 million. Bringing three decades of experience to the project, Populous succeeded in creating a sports facility that pleases the eye and also achieved LEED Silver certification.
Size 340,000 ft2
Program Stadium and event space
Client ICON Venue Group, Houston Dynamo
General Contractor Manhattan Construction
Landscape Architect Clark Condon Associates
Structural Engineer Walter P Moore
Civil Engineer Ward, Getz & Associates
Jeff Spear, a senior architect at Populous and the principal in charge of this project, is the firm’s major league soccer (MLS) stadium expert, having been a part of every MLS facility the firm has worked on. Besides the soccer connection, Spear has designed numerous projects in Houston—his first being for the University of Houston in 1991—and the firm has completed additional stadiums in the city including Minute Maid Park and Alliance Stadium. Spear says that the BBVA Compass Stadium’s brownfield site and nearby light-rail stop were important. One of the key goals of the project was extending downtown development south of Highway 59, known as the South Freeway, effectively growing the business loop in Houston while appealing to the young soccer-fan demographic. Today, an area that recently consisted of abandoned warehouses is sprouting new residential units.
In its quest for icon status, the stadium’s design employs an eye-catching muscular-looking skin. The tessellated exterior and its triangles are meant to echo the physical nature of the players on the field. The exterior transforms throughout the day; during daylight hours, the sun shines through the skin and gives the exposed field a shimmering, reflective quality, and at night, the light comes from the inside, causing the skin to “disappear.” The building goes from glowing from the outside in, to the inside out.
Certification LEED Silver
Site Transit oriented, redeveloped brownfield
Materials Diverted 87% construction waste, used 98% FSC-certified wood, aluminum exterior skin
Water Low-flow toilets reduce water by 41%
Energy Efficient roof, LED lighting
To reflect the area’s history as an industrial hub, the design uses concrete block side walls and an aluminum mesh skin, which is breathable, recyclable, and calls back to the site’s history as a metal warehouse. The mesh provides necessary sunshading and protection from the blistering Houston heat while allowing cool breezes to flow through the stadium instead of being, as Spear puts it, “a closed metal oven.”
“It’s very tough for stadiums to become LEED certified because of their infrequent use,” Spear says. However, BBVA Compass Stadium has leapt past basic LEED certification to Silver with a budget that hardly lent itself to introducing expensive systems. Populous reduced water consumption by 41 percent with low-flow fixtures, and the project used recycled and local materials and FSC-certified wood, yet many of its credits were earned from simply being located in Houston’s urban core and adjacent to transit.
“It’s different from any other sports facility in Houston,” Spear says. “The addition of BBVA Compass Stadium is reflective of where soccer is in the US. It’s an emerging sport that’s growing exponentially, which is leading to a lot of unique stadiums being built across the country.” In a state primarily associated with American football, Texas’s largest city now has an architectural landmark that reflects changing times, expanding tastes, and increasing interest in sustainable design. Hopefully, soccer will one day inspire Friday Night Lights levels of devotion, but for now, with structures like BBVA Compass
Stadium, the sport is standing fine on its own.