Blog 1
Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Here is someone else talking about the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, AGAIN! What can I do?! It is one of the newer and more iconic structures located in my home city of Atlanta and hence, I couldn’t stop myself from researching it. Although I have yet to visit the stadium for a game, I’m in constant awe of the structure for good reasons!

Structural Information

Figure 1: Mercedes-Benz Stadium exterior view

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Georgia; it sits adjacent to what stood before, the Georgia Dome. Construction of the projected started in April 2014 and it finished in 2017. The first game was played in this stadium as early as September 2017. This stadium was built to replace the Georgia Dome and become the new home for the Atlanta Falcons National Football League team as well as for the new Atlanta United soccer team. Its purpose is not limited to just this; it will serve many other purposes for other teams and events.

The team responsible for this iconic design is BuroHappold Engineering and architect, HOK. The team at Birdair was chosen as the specialty contractor to construct the roof pillow system and the facade while a general contractor team consisting of differing firms worked on the stadium. The main member of the structure, the retractable roof, was designed by HOK and TVSDesign and put into place by Birdair. The funding to construct this project was a mixture of both public and private funds. The total cost to build it was about $1.5 billion and the Falcons partnered up with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) to build it (GWCCA owns it while the Falcons operate it).

The stadium is set to be an optimal location for sporting events with big future plans for holding events like the Super Bowl and College Football Playoff Championship game.

Historical Significance

The stadium was designed to be as unique and iconic as efficient. Not seen in other stadium, the whole of the structure has something new and futuristic to offer. Starting at the top, the retractable roof acts like a camera lens and is made of three layered ETFE,ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, roof pillows resting on eight petals. This particular roofing material was chosen for 3 main reasons: aesthetics, performance and sustainability. It is inspired by the Roman Pantheon and when in action, behaves like a falcon’s wings. This facade can open within 10 minutes giving an outdoor feel to the indoors when pleasant weather allows.

A 360 degree Halo scoreboard lines the upper interior of the stadium to ensure that each spectator has the best experience possible.

Figure 2: Retractable roof and interior view of screens

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium has set the standard for stadiums across the U.S. It is the first LEED Platinum professional sports stadium achieving its goal of sustainability. Some of the features include reusing rainwater, use of solar panels, efficient lighting and encouragement of alternative transportation. It has achieved 88 LEED points–the most any sports venue has achieved in the world. The characteristics described above make the Mercedes-Benz stadium a model for future buildings particularly sports arenas as it shows that efficiency, sustainability and technology can all be achieved for a structure.

Cultural Significance

Although recently built with the newest technologies, there has been one injury reported in which a worker was injured while trying to move a metal tower. This individual is suing the general contractor and other companies for permanent and continuing injuries. Other than this particular case, no injuries or deaths have been reported during and post-construction of the stadium.

 

Figure 3: Construction of the stadium

One of the historical event concerns is the impact on poor neighborhoods near the stadium: English Avenue and Vine City. Arthur Blank has suggested that millions of dollars will go to improve these neighborhoods but it seems the opposite. The money in the form of either investments or revenues is not directed towards these neighborhoods at all. In fact, these areas are seen as blotted out neighborhoods and little to no money is spent on local businesses to generate their economy. Nonetheless, Blank is persistent on changing the quality of life of the people living in these areas through donations. As can be seen, the stadium is loved by the spectators of sports and disliked by residents of surrounding neighborhoods due to each of their interests either being upheld or tossed to the side.

As it is a recently-constructed system, the human cost in building it is seen to have low statistical values and it is still used today for the purpose it was built.

Structural Art

The structure, in my opinion, does not demonstrate structural art no matter how beautiful, pleasing and futuristic it looks to my eye. This can be explained through the 3 E’s: efficiency, economy and elegance. As previously described, the structure is efficient in its purpose as it is sustainable and environmentally friendly (LEEDs too!). In terms of economy however, the stadium is quite costly as it ended up costing $1.5 billion to build and twice the material was used for construction compared to the Georgia Dome. Elegance could be seen as either aesthetically pleasing and environmentally-friendly but all 3 of the E’s are not satisfied.

Figure 4: Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Structural Analysis

Starting with the iconic roof, it is designed to be retractable and its functions are explained above. Specifically, eight cantilevered petals move to create the effect of a camera. Resting on these petals are ETFE cushion that are light-weight and allow smooth movement through the use of a cable net system. The eastern side of the structure has an a facade made of lightweight steel to allow openness and views of the city to be seen. Deep foundations and shallow foundations were put into place for the precast inner bowl. There are also 19 mega columns that support the roof and 8 other columns that support the mega columns. The foundational structures were made of thick high-strength concrete and longitudinal and shear reinforcements were used. Then, the precast seats were made of columns, vomitory walls, raker beams, and seats and placed in the inner bowl. The concrete bowl consisting of different sections such as top of seating, upper mezz and etc. was placed. A total of 150,00 cubic yards of concrete and 27,000 tons of structural steel was used to construct the stadium.

Figure 5: Depiction of the Mega Columns in place
Figure 6: Depiction of Seating

 

A detailed analysis of each of the sections was done through graphics and software such as SAFE software and designing of individual components was possible due to software like Enercalc. The design drawings generated from these softwares made it possible to communicate to the entire team what would be built and how it would be built. Manipulations and changes could easily be made to these models to make the structure’s design as best as possible.

Figure 6: Stadium Breakdown

A even more detailed analysis can be presented upon the stadium for which a whole powerpoint would not be enough due to the extensive detailing and design.

The loads on this structure include the dead load (weight of the stadium which increases as you go down since the lower parts have to hold the weight of the higher portions). The live loads can be considered to be the moving population of the spectators. No usually large dynamic loads are present as it is a very still and static structure. The total of these loads moves from the top to the bottom as following: the weight of the roof structure and the components inside moves to the triangular facade then which the increase in weight due to the facade will then move to the columns put into place. The columns then take the load of the weight and the people and transfer it to the ground through the closest column from the bowl structure. Although the system seems complicated from the outside due to the interconnectedness of the facades, the loads simple move from the top to the bottom through the closest structural member. Although stadiums and buildings weren’t covered for load paths, the idea works the same way.

Figure 7: External View of Load Path in One portion of stadium

Let’s look at a specific example. From figure 6, the blue foundation can be seen to upheld by many different columns. The load on this foundational slab will flow through/into the columns geometrically if the columns are spaced equally apart or portions of this force will go to the closest foundation columns. Then, these columns will transmit the loads to the ground. Of course, it should be noted that the force or load is the greatest at the bottom for which the columns handle a large load and must made be designed to handle the appropriate load.

Figure 8: Internal View of Load Path from slab to column

Note: Many simplifications were made due to the complexity of the stadium.

Personal Response

Although I have yet to visit the inside of the stadium, standing outside made me realized the innovations in Atlanta that have allowed such a futuristic building to be built in a still developing city! It put me in awe because of its size and the capability of the retractable roof.

References:

[1] https://www.burohappold.com/projects/mercedes-benz-stadium/

[2] http://mercedesbenzstadium.com/stadium-fast-facts/

[3] http://www.birdair.com/projects/mercedes-benz-stadium

[4] https://www.stadiumsofprofootball.com/stadiums/mercedes-benz-stadium/

[5] https://www.constructiondive.com/news/injured-worker-sues-gc-on-14b-falcons-stadium/422265/

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/sports/football/atlanta-falcons-stadium-arthur-blank-neighborhood.html

[7] http://www.seaog.org/Presentations/MBS/MBS%20Presentation_SEAOG.pdf

 

Comments

  1. jgarrett39 says

    Don’t be bashful about writing about Mercedes-Benz! It is an amazing work of engineering. The structural analysis graphics you had were amazing; I knew the structural system of this stadium would be complex, but that breakdown of the layers you had was crazy. I also liked how you touched on the owner Arthur Blank and the things he is trying to do for the area. I have always thought of him as a nice person, so I am surprised that these efforts have been slow moving thus far. I do like his opinion on how much the concessions should be though haha. One thing I didn’t know about the stadium is that if you unwrapped the video board and made it stand up straight, it would be taller than the Pencil Building! That used to be my only cool fact about the stadium but now I have lots more to talk about.

    • rlakhani7 says

      Oh no, not at all! I think so too that the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a marvel and of course, an engineering masterpiece! I am trying to bring a holistic view of all parts of this stadium and honestly, I was shocked to find some of the facts I did find. And yes, completely agree with the complexity of the stadium which made it both interesting and a challenge. I did try my best to simplify as much as I could for the analysis and I think the images do a great job showing the stadium!

  2. etripolitis3 says

    This is a very complex looking system but the breakdowns and explanations you have make it seem much easier to understand! It’s also really cool it has such a high LEED score. I didn’t realize how green it was. Did you know the stadium also doesn’t pay taxes? Imagine the impacts Blank could have on the surrounding community if he contributed to their taxes.

    • rlakhani7 says

      I agree with that very much! It is much more complex than it looks from the outside! I am lucky to have found these images which help me understand the system even more! I did not know that and it makes me anxious knowing how this stadium is behind some legal issues. I also agree with how much better the stadium can do if Arthur Blank changes his ways!