Sustainability at the 2012 Olympic Games

Architecture & Interiors

When London won the London 2012 bid for the Olympic Games, sustainability was put forward as their number one priority, and they have already been exceeding building regulation guidelines. But to what extent have the London 2012 organisers lived up to the promise of hosting the greenest Olympic Games ever?

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology), the body responsible for laying out the standard for best practise, has been used widely by government in construction projects before, but this was the first time they have provided assessments for major sports stadia. The good news is, the Olympic Park has already achieved the BREEAM “Excellent” rating for the main stadium, the Velodrome and the Aquatics Centre before the athletes have even made it through the front door.

So, what makes these venues so sustainable?

Sourcing sustainably
The ODA set up a panel of timber suppliers for contractors, and they pledged to supply only sustainably and legally sourced timber, which led to a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificate in April 2012.

Helping to keep carbon low, they had an on-site concrete batching plant to supply all the contractors with the concrete they needed. By controlling the concrete mix, they substituted raw materials which are commonly used in concrete production, with recycled materials such as by-products from steel and coal manufacturers, and even recycled glass.

The big clean up
The site in Stratford, East London, was a toxic wasteland before it was transformed into the Olympic Park. Heavy industrial use and years of neglect had left the soil in a sorry state, with petrol, oil, arsenic and tar being just some of its unsavoury components. This soil had to be decontaminated and then replaced over an area roughly the size of 297 football pitches. To date, the Park has been the largest planting project that the UK has ever seen, to the tune of 4,000 new trees, 74,000 plants, 60,000 bulbs and nearly a quarter of a million wetland plants for the ponds and waterways.

Venue by venue
The three main building projects involved in the assessment process were the Olympic Stadium, the Aquatics Centre and the incredible Velodrome (affectionately known as The Pringle on-site, due to its certain shape). All had their fair share of challenges but each has been engineered and designed to ensure adherence to the standards set out by BREEAM.

The Aquatics Centre (Architect Zaha Hadid; contractor Balfour Beatty)

  • The concrete used on the foundations was made from recycled content, and the whole construction used sustainable timber.
  • The roof of the building has been made into 3,500 square metres of space for wildlife, for increasing biodiversity on the site, and bat and bird boxes have been built into the bridge on the approach to the centre.
  • The water used to clean the pool filters will be recycled after use – for flushing the toilets. Sustainability goes one step further as two of the wings of the building are temporary.
  • The Aquatic Centre will seat 17,500 people at the height of the Games, but once the temporary wings are removed, the place will continue as a 2,500 capacity venue.

The Velodrome (Hopkins Architects; contractor ISG)

  • Built on a former landfill site, the lower part of the bowl is made from recycled concrete, with a capacity of 3,500, while the upper tiers, suspended within the two curves of the roof has a seating capacity of 6,000.
  • The roof of the Velodrome is made of cable net, a totally innovative new product that uses 17km of recycled steel cables.
  • This is light weight and cheaper than traditional roofing methods, and makes the building naturally ventilated, so there is no need for air conditioning.
  • The building has been designed to cut water consumption by 44%, and the harvested rainwater will be used for flushing the loos and irrigating the landscaped areas surrounding the venue.

The Olympic Stadium (Architect Populous; contractor Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd.)

  • The centre-piece for the Games the eyes of the world will be watching on 27 July, as it stages the opening ceremony before the sporting action.
  • With an 80,000 seat capacity, the idea is for it to scale down to a 60,000 capacity venue after the Games. It is officially the lightest Olympic Stadium ever built.
  • Instead of manufacturing and using steel, the construction involved the innovative use of unwanted gas pipelines as a roof truss, with the roof itself being fabricated from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) fabric, keeping weight low. In addition to this, there are already plans for PVC recycling after the games – stadiums currently being built for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil could be set to receive materials from the Olympic Park.

So, with the Games only a few short weeks away, it looks like this huge project will come together and we’ll see a sporting spectacle unlike any before, and most importantly, in a stadium we can say is the greenest ever accomplished. But have the organisers covered everything – is there anything missing from their grand, green plan?

Images: Julian Osley, EGFocus This is a submitted post! Not by Adrienne Breaux
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