Connecticut Green

ESPN Focuses on Sustainable Design at Bristol Campus

Bristol, CT – In August of this year, ESPN open its doors to the newly constructed Digital Center-2 (DC-2), a 194,000sf, five-studio media facility located on the network’s Bristol campus, a 136-acre site that includes some 1.2 million sf of space in 18 buildings. DC-2, Bldg. 13, and the Child Care Center are just a few examples of the company’s commitment to minimizing its overall impact on the environment while encouraging and activating environmentally responsible behavior on the part of employees, guests, and business associates throughout the world.

Let us take a closer to look at these buildings.


Bldg. 13, aerial view looking northeast Photo credit:  Joe Faraoni, ESPN Staff Photographer.

Bldg. 13, aerial view looking northeast
/ Joe Faraoni, ESPN Staff Photographer.

Bldg. 13 is a 136,000sf commercial office building with a significant portion of the building square footage dedicated to technical operations. The project is a four-story building utilizing USGBC LEED 2.0 criteria as a guideline. The first floor of the building is designated for technical support for ESPN’s satellite uplink operation. The remaining three floors are dedicated to various other technical operations.

Having set the design bar at LEED Silver, the consultant team led by Fletcher-Thompson of Bridgeport, Conn. was able to meet USGBC parameters while ensuring the MEP/FP systems met ESPN requirements for reliability and redundancy.

Building orientation and envelop materials were reviewed in detail to explore potential energy-saving opportunities. The building design incorporated high R-value glazing, sun shelves on the exterior of the south and west façades of the building, interior sun shelves (on these same elevations), reduced fenestration on the north and east façades of the building, and a high-reflectivity roof membrane to reduce the heat-island effect. Automated controls manage the building climate and lighting systems which employ daylight harvesting through the use of electronic dimming ballasts. High-efficiency electric water chillers form the backbone of the building cooling system. Waterless urinals save potable water use, and site irrigation is kept to a minimum by utilizing hardy, native species that require very little irrigation beyond natural levels of rainfall.

The Fletcher-Thompson design team and ESPN stakeholders including the Global Construction & Facilities Engineering and the Safety & Sustainability groups and construction manager, The Associated Construction Company, were rewarded for their combined efforts in June 2014 when the USGBC granted “Certified” level for Bldg. 13 under LEED NC 2.0.

Child Care Center main entrance   Photo credit: Rich Arden, ESPN staff photographer

Child Care Center main entrance
/ Rich Arden, ESPN staff photographer

The ESPN Child Care Center is a mixed-age group facility consisting of three “family unit” buildings comprising 38,270sf and a multi-use building measuring 12,109sf, which houses a collegiate-sized basketball court, locker facilities, and supporting mechanical space. The design team was led by The S/L/A/M Collaborative from Glastonbury, Conn.

The ESPN Global Construction & Facilities Engineering team worked closely with their Disney colleagues and various ESPN stakeholders to establish design criteria based on LEED NC 2.2.

The selected site is a 12-acre parcel in close proximity to the ESPN Bristol, Conn. Main Campus. Careful consideration was taken to ensure that an established watercourse through the site was maintained and utilized as a teaching space for the children. Secure outdoor play areas, a nature walk, and an outdoor amphitheater were evaluated and eventually worked into the final design.



Child Care Center – Motor Skills Room   Photo credit: Rich Arden, ESPN staff photographer

Child Care Center – Motor Skills Room
/ Rich Arden, ESPN staff photographer


The architects pursued daylight harvesting, cool-roof membrane, high R-value glazing, FSC certified lumber, and rain-screen building envelope materials. Landscape designers focused on storm-water catchments areas with bio-filtration zones and zero irrigation landscape materials.

MEP/FP engineers van Zelm Engineers, from Farmington, Conn., directed its team on a number of ESPN-mandated initiatives including occupancy sensors for interior light control, chilled beam HVAC system, CO2 sensors for demand control ventilation, a 22kW solar photo-voltaic system and a solar hot water system. ESPN’s construction manager, The Associated Construction Company, managed the LEED for New Construction process with professional diligence.

The project is currently under review by the USGBC for a LEED NC 2.2 Gold award.



Digital Center 2 - April 21, 2014


Digital Center 2 is a world-class television production facility that integrates sustainable design and energy-efficiency objectives alongside cutting-edge technical sophistication. The building is a four-story facility with two floors of technical production and studio space sandwiched between basement and mezzanine levels housing the mission-critical electrical and cooling plants for the facility. This 194,000sf building has a USGBC LEED NC 2.2 target of “Certified.”

ESPN Global Construction & Facilities Engineering collaborated with their colleagues in the Safety & Sustainability group to assemble a diverse group of senior-level stakeholders that had the desired passion expected for this complicated project and the necessary authority to make the hard decisions when required to do so.

The design team led by HLW International from New York, N.Y. was given the task of leading both the architectural and building infrastructure systems design based on ESPN’s program requirements. Mission-critical electrical systems were designed by Facilities Engineering Associates from Farmington, Conn., and the landscape architect was Sasaki Associates from Watertown, Mass.

HLW engineers, following ESPN’s directive, employed high-efficiency electric water chillers with adaptive frequency drives, super-premium efficiency motors for all pumps and fans, and utilized variable frequency drives (VFD’s) to control these motors. Direct digital control (DDC) manages the HVAC sequence of operation including CO2 Monitoring for demand control ventilation.

Water efficiency was targeted by collecting air handler condensate water and site ground water. These sources (after chemical treatment) were used for cooling tower make-up and toilet flushing, thereby reducing dependency on potable water for these routine tasks.

The architects concentrated on the building envelope materials such as the high-reflectivity roof membrane to reduce the heat island effect. High R-value glazing was deployed on the south and west façades of the building to reduce thermal gain. The north and east façades were wrapped with a combination of insulated metal panels and cementatious fiberglass panels.

Landscape designers selected hardy native species for the planting materials. These selections were vital in meeting the zero potable water use goal for irrigation.

The combined leadership of ESPN stakeholders, the efforts of the consultant team and the construction manager, The Associated Construction Company, along with some significant heavy lifting on the part of YR&G, resulted in this project being considered for a LEED “Certified” award.

The ESPN story of consecutive successful sustainable projects would not be possible without the collaborative efforts of the architects, engineers, and construction manager mentioned previously.

One can easily conclude that a lot of hard work on the part of a great many people paid off with tremendous success. The sustainability and energy-efficiency goals established many years ago continue to pay dividends for ESPN, TWDC, and the Bristol community. As a member of the global community, ESPN is aware of its legacy and it remains clear that the company’s legacy includes environmental responsibility.

This piece was authored by John J. Cistulli, Senior Director of  Global Construction & Facilities Engineering at ESPN in Bristol, Conn.

About ESPN:

ESPN, The Worldwide Leader in Sports, is the leading multinational, multimedia sports entertainment company featuring the broadest portfolio of multimedia sports assets with over 50 business entities. Based in Bristol, Conn., with 4,000 employees (7,500 worldwide) ESPN Plaza includes 1,200,000 square feet in 18 buildings on 136 acres (116 contiguous), and with additional office space (400,000 sq. ft.) rented nearby. The company is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc., an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The Hearst Corporation holds a 20 percent interest in ESPN.