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Sustainability Gold for the 2012 London Olympics

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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With the 2012 London Olympics drawn to a close, so starts the task of breaking down parts of the 500-acre Olympic Park that housed the world’s finest athletes for the past two weeks. But, the London 2012 Organizing Committee and the Olympic Delivery Authority are already two steps ahead. In their effort to keep this year’s games both water and energy efficient, these groups designed and built Olympic park with sustainability in mind.

In aquatics, the name of the game was “recyclable.” The Aquatics Center, with its wave-inspired design by Zaha Hadid, was newly built for the games, included two temporary wings capable of holding up to 17,500 that can be removed, and their materials reused in other construction projects.

Swimming Facility at Olympic Park

Next door to the swimming facility, the Water Polo Arena – a 37-meter pool facility, with a silver-lined inflatable roof and 5,000-spectator capacity – will soon be torn down entirely. But, the building’s materials will be recovered, including extensive amounts of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which will be reused or recycled.

Water Polo Facility at Olympic Park

In order to reduce the overall energy demand of Olympic Park, organizers emphasized energy efficiency across all of the facilities. One shining example of this focus was seen on the Northern side of Olympic-Park, where the Velodrome kept athletes and spectators comfortable using its 100% natural ventilation system. Further, its track was constructed using sustainably-sourced Siberian pine, which was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Now that the games have come to an end, the venue will be repurposed to house new mountain bike and road cycle circuit tracks as well as a café, bike hire and bicycle workshop facilities.

The Velodrome at Olympic Park

The Copper Box, which housed handball and some controversial badminton, included nearly 3,000 square meters of copper on its exterior (most of the metal was recycled material). It also reduced its projected annual lighting costs by 40% with its incorporation of 8 “light pipes” that allow natural light to flow into the venue. Like many other buildings in Olympic Park, the Box also collects rainwater for use in “waste management” (a.k.a. flushable toilets). And, its retractable seating will allow it to be used post-games as a multi-use sports center for the community.

The Copper Box at Olympic Park

As the world begins to shift their focus to 2016, it will be interesting to see how Brazil – a country famous for its successful use of domestic biofuels – will approach its own process of improving and expanding its facilities. Will sustainability continue be the name of the game?

Photo Credit:

1. 2012 London Olympics logo found using Creative Commons.

2. Photos of the Olympic facilities from the official 2012 London Olympics website.

Melissa C. Lott About the Author: An engineer and researcher who works at the intersection of energy, environment, technology, and policy. Follow on Twitter @mclott.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. priddseren 1:33 pm 08/13/2012

    The olympics are great but I would think warmists would not consider it green by any means. The entire thing has no actual purpose for the amount of energy used to do it. All of the materials used to build the place would have come from factories using massive amounts of electricity and fuels to make, acres of land altered to support the buildings, millions of gallons of usable fresh water turned into a dead zone because of treating it as any pool would be. Every light turned on in any venue or in the village was simply power wasted on something that has no real benefit. Isn’t the warmist creed to do without what is not necessary in the name of using less CO2? How about all the fuel used in all the trucks and construction equipment to put it all together and now to take it apart and haul it somewhere else.

    The olympics and every other sport are certainly useful for the human mind to find entertainment mostly. But to call it sustainable? Not really, by the definition of sustainability, providing food, shelter, water, air for life or perhaps capping or reducing CO2 in warmist speak, it was a total waste of resources. Every pound of CO2 produced by the event, directly or indirectly was added to the atmosphere for no real reason at all and sustained no one.

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  2. 2. huler 5:24 pm 08/13/2012

    Nice piece of work, @Melissa, as ever. And the comment by @priddseren as fine an example of the straw man fallacy as I’ve recently seen. My four-year-old has learned that absurdly exaggerating a position and then attacking the exaggerated position doesn’t work (“you NEVER let me …”), so I don’t know why @priddseren expects this one (“the warmist creed to do without what is not necessary tin the name of using less CO2″) to work any better. The “warmist” term is in itself a nice ad hominem turn, so @priddseren hits the perfecta of bottom-rung fallacies with this comment. Can anybody think of a way commenters could reduce planetary CO2 if they truly wish to? I can.

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  3. 3. marclevesque 6:49 pm 08/13/2012

    @ Off topic

    Dealing with Internet Trolls – the Cognitive Therapy Approach
    http://unarmed.shlomifish.org/909.html

    Link to this

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