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Plugged In

More than wires - exploring the connections between energy, environment, and our lives

Sustainability Gold for the 2012 London Olympics


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.

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

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