Super Bowl LII Tackles Sustainable Design
By Marlene Cimons
Early one December morning in 2010, the inflatable roof on the Minnesota Vikings' old stadium in Minneapolis ruptured and collapsed under the weight of 17 inches of wet snow. No one was hurt, but the incident was a wake-up call for the Vikings' front office. The team needed a new facility that could withstand the rigors of a Minnesota winter.
On Sunday, the stadium will be on full display as Minneapolis hosts Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. The U.S. Bank Stadium, which replaced the old Metrodome in 2014, is built to endure the fiercest storms. And, because bitter cold outside makes it costly to keep the stadium warm inside, the venue also deploys an array of energy-saving features.
"We knew that the roof had to be strong enough to weather significant 100-year snow loads," said John Hutchings, who led the team at HKS Architects that designed the building. "No storm will collapse this roof." In addition to winning awards for its near-indestructible roof, the U.S. Bank Stadium earned a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for conserving energy.
Inside the U.S. Bank Stadium. Nic Lehoux
U.S. Bank Stadium's roof is treated with a special glaze that deflects sunlight, and helps to melt snow quickly. Its pitch is very sharp, which helps snow slide into large snow gutter—50 feet wide at its largest. The roof allows natural sunlight in, which helps the venue save money on lighting.
"The roof creates an ideal outdoor atmosphere inside the stadium," Hutchings said. "So much sunlight pours into the bowl that it's not unusual to see fans wearing sunglasses inside." The roof is the one of the stadium's most popular features.
"I think the daylight quality of the game really makes you feel like you're outside and creates a pretty good fan experience," said Richard Strong, an architect with the University of Minnesota's Center for Sustainable Building Research, which made sure the stadium followed state sustainability guidelines. "The balance between energy efficiency and the ability to have a lot of light is one of the things that stadium really achieved."
Vikings fans entering their stadium.Nic Lehoux
Most Vikings games are played when it is cold—usually below 45 degrees Fahrenheit—with temperatures that can plummet to less than -10. Heating typically makes up 50 percent of building energy use in this region, so stadium designers decided to use solar heating and capture heat in the facility as it rises, then recirculate it to the fans below. The system redistributes warm air in the winter and pumps in cold air during the summer.
U.S. Bank Stadium is one of just 80 LEED-certified sports venues in the U.S., according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). It is also the first NFL stadium to be built with LED lighting, which uses 75 percent less electricity than metal halide lighting typically deployed in stadiums.
Furthermore, the stadium offsets all of its energy with renewable energy credits. It deploys low-flow faucets to save water. It was built with a single steel truss, instead of two, which reduced the amount of steel needed for construction. And, it has committed to becoming a zero waste facility where almost all waste is recyclable or compostable.
U.S. Bank Stadium boasts an energy-saving weatherproof roof.Nic Lehoux
Minnesota was ranked 9th in ACEEE's 2016 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard because of its energy efficiency policies. The state's building standards call for structures built after 2010 to consume 60 percent less energy than the average building, with the goal of reaching net zero by 2030. The U.S. Bank Stadium is working to adhere to these standards.
"I think the stadium sends a message to the people of Minnesota about being environmentally responsible," Strong said. "It comes very close to meeting all the state's sustainability guidelines."
One issue yet to be resolved is whether the building's glass windows pose a danger to birds. Many birds migrate to or through Minnesota in large numbers, according to the Audubon Minnesota, which raised the issue of potential bird collisions before the stadium opened. Since then, Audubon, the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority, the University of Minnesota and Oklahoma State University announced they would collaborate on a two-year study to evaluate the threat.
The partially clear roof cuts down on electricity and gives fans an outdoor-like experience.Nic Lehoux
The U.S. Bank Stadium is one example of a larger trend among college and professional sports teams to conserve energy, both to save money and to limit carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. This effort assumes a higher profile during the Super Bowl.
"Given the bewildering retreat from essential, science-based climate policy being enacted by the worst environmental administration in our nation's history, a counter message by the NFL promoting progress on climate could not be more important," said Allen Hershkowitz, chairman of Sport and Sustainability International." As one of the most visible sporting events in the world, the Super Bowl has a unique opportunity to promote environmental literacy and reduce cultural polarization related to climate change."
"The U.S. Bank venue's commitment to 100 percent renewable energy credits, combined with its ambitious zero waste goals, and the region's intelligent mass transit infrastructure, position this event to be among the most carbon intelligent Super Bowls ever," he said.
On the field of the environmentally responsible U.S. Bank Stadium.Nic Lehoux
While locals are happy to see Minnesota represented in Super Bowl LII, game day will be bittersweet. Strong, a lifelong Minnesotan, regrets the fact that the Vikings won't be in it. They suffered a crushing loss to the Eagles in the NFC championship game two weeks ago, and they won't get to play at home in the biggest football event of the year.
"We would have loved for them to be playing in the Super Bowl, in their home stadium, and in front of a national audience," Strong said. "We really wanted to be able to root for the hometown team."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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