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January 25, 2016

National finalist: Gold award
DLR Group

Photos courtesy of DLR Group
Photovoltaic cells were installed over the entry gate at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Project: NRG Stadium solar
Client: NRG Solar SC Stadium LLC

DLR designed a 200-foot-long weatherproof entry canopy with an hourglass shape.

DLR Group was awarded a gold award for its creative design and installation of a new solar energy system at NRG Stadium in Houston.

The project involved the installation of 600 solar panels spread across the stadium for a total system size of 180 kilowatts, but in the process DLR also wanted to fulfill NRG Energy’s mission to “ask people to think differently about energy.”

NRG Stadium, built in 2002 to host the National Football League’s Houston Texans, was the first NFL stadium to have a retractable roof. The stadium accommodates more than 71,000 fans and also hosts NCAA men’s basketball tournaments, international soccer tournaments and big-name concerts. It will host the Super Bowl in 2017.

DLR’s design called for something different from just a bunch of photovoltaic cells on the roof of the stadium. Innovative solar canopies were developed over two pedestrian bridges, the stadium entrance gate, and over an electric car-charging station in the parking lot.

The weatherproof entry canopy at the stadium entrance uses rolled HSS purlins that are seamlessly welded to create 200-foot-long undulating ribbons that splay along a girder to create an hourglass shape. The original pedestrian bridges were steel truss arch bridges that spanned the main road in front of the stadium.

DLR installed what it called “stealth wings” on each end of the bridges — canopies that dipped down before curving back up to cantilever out in a sweeping flare utilizing wide steel flange beams. The sustainable solar panels were installed on top of the canopies with the addition of multicolored LED lights in the shape of the Texans’ logo.

The canopy over the car-charging lot was originally supposed to be two large rectangular pieces, but DLR instead created a plate column-girder angled 30 degrees from vertical so that the canopy appears to float over the parking stalls.

The new solar canopies are not only cool for the fans attending games, they show how solar power has the potential to be intrinsically involved in people’s lives.

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