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Super Bowl 50: Levi's Stadium sits at the forefront of venue sustainability

As the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers clash for the Super Bowl 50 title in Santa Clara, California, on Sunday, they will do so in one of the most energy-efficient stadiums in the world.

When Levi's Stadium, the $1.2 billion home to the San Francisco 49ers, opened in July 2014 it became the first stadium in the United States to open with LEED Gold status from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), according to the National Environmental Educational Foundation (NEEF).

To achieve LEED certification, projects have to satisfy prerequisites to accumulate points, which can go toward different levels of certification. The facility earned LEED Gold status through: water savings, energy efficiency and sustainable site developments as well as several other factors, according to the stadium's website.

It has been a common occurrence over the past decade to see pro football teams turn to renewable energy and the 49ers continued that trend. During the construction phase, the 49ers partnered with NRG Energy to outfit the stadium to utilize solar power.

The facility boasts an extensive allotment of 1,162 solar panels, which are designed to generate more electricity annually than is consumed during the 10 home games per year that the 49ers play. There are also three solar panel-covered bridges which serve as entrances and exits to the stadium.

In further efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, the 49ers made sure to construct the venue with easy access to public transportation and a nearby bike path.

Since Levi's Stadium was constructed while California was experiencing a historic drought, being mindful of water waste was a top priority. As a result, about 85 percent of the water used at the building is recycled water provided by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

The recycled water is used for field irrigation, a 27,000 square-foot green roof atop the stadium's tower of suites, refrigeration and flushing toilets. The building's low-flow water fixtures help conserve 40 percent less water than regular models.

The green roof features 16 native plants species, which are drought resistant, and the species can form a barrier between the stadium and the surrounding air. This reduces the need for cooling in the stadium while also adding insulation to the building, according to NEEF.

Situated in Silicon Valley, it's no surprise that Levi's Stadium is considered the most high-tech stadium in the world.

Through the stadium's mobile app, fans can order food while sitting in their seats and either have it delivered to them or go pick up at the stands to avoid lines. Fans can also search for the shortest concession lines or bathroom lines around the building.

The building's high-tech advances and innovative sustainability measures are intertwined through live dashboard displays around the venue, which show fans' current energy measurements and water and air monitors.

In a recent article on greensportsblog.com, Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, president of the non-profit Green Sports Alliance said Levi's Stadium "is among the most environmentally intelligent sports venues in the world."

He also credited the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee with taking a broader view of the term sustainability.

"It's not just carbon, it's not just waste, it's not just the environment -those are, of course, critical- but it's also about using Super Bowl 50 to do good socially and economically for the Bay Area," Hershkowitz said.

The host committee had made sustainability a large part of its approach to bringing the big game to the Bay Area. After the Super Bowl is over, the group is hoping for a "net positive Super Bowl," which according to its website, means looking for ways to do good by focusing on environmental, social and economic impacts to create a lasting benefit for the region.

The committee said it is focused on four key areas to meet their goals including: reducing climate change impact; using resources and materials responsibly; inspiring fans to embrace sustainability; and leaving a positive legacy for the region.

The 49ers are among the latest professional sports franchise to bring greening practices to their state-of-the-art venues, but they certainly won't be the last.

Within the next two years, the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings will each debut their own palatial new homes. Each organization is shooting to achieve LEED certification, with the Falcons ambitiously targeting a goal of obtaining Leed Platinum status, according to the USGBC.