The “Green Games”

The 2012 Olympic Games are set to begin in less than 8 hours with the Opening Ceremony celebration being broadcasted around the world. Being held in London, this year’s games may be the most sustainable Summer Games on record. Olympic organizers have worked hard over the past several years to make this worldwide event more environmentally responsible. Preparation for the 2012 Games has involved considerable redevelopment of well-known locations around the city, such as Hyde Park and Horse Guards Parade. London will use a mix of new venues, existing and historic facilities, and temporary facilities for the Games. Some of the new facilities will be reused in their original Olympic form while other buildings will be resized or relocated for future use.

Natural ventilation, minimal use of artificial light by maximizing the use of natural day light, lightweight building materials, and rainwater harvesting system are just some of the sustainability principles used by some of the top architects from around the world that have designed these buildings. Along with making sure the facilities used less energy, efforts were made to eliminate any “white elephant” buildings – those buildings left standing after the Olympic Games have come and gone. Below are three examples of this year’s most sustainable buildings that will most likely set the bar for future Olympic buildings.

Olympic StadiumPopulous Architects

The largest building built for the Olympic Games will be home to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies as well as a number of athletic events. The exterior of the building is wrapped in a material made from polyester and polyethylene and held together with tension cables around the building. The roof, designed for easy disassembling after the games, is composed of compression trusses and roof column connections that are bolted together. Made from a PVC fabric and supported with cables, the roof structure covers two thirds of the stadium’s seating which will help reduce the chance of wind that could invalidate sprint and jump records. In hopes of keeping this building off the popular “white elephant” post-Olympic Games buildings list, the stadium will be reused – so far two major London football (soccer) clubs have placed bids on the stadium.

Olympic Aquatics CentreZaha Hadid Architects

The second largest building, after the Olympic Stadium, is the first structure Olympic visitors will see as they approach the Olympic Park. The Aquatics Centre has been built on a brownfield site on the southeastern edge of Olympic Park. The ceiling, spanning over two 50-meter pools, was built out of sustainable Red Lauro timber. The exterior was constructed with precast modular concrete blocks, which not only eliminate the need for painting, but also reduce the amount of emissions required to build the building.

Basketball Arena – Wilkinson Eyre and KSS

Not only was the Basketball Arena completed on time and came in under budget but it’s the Olympics’ largest temporary venue. Its “flatpack” design will allow the building to be dismantled after the Games and used elsewhere in the world in the future.  Rumor has it, that this facility could be used in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Games. The arena was constructed with a lightweight steel frame wrapped in a recyclable white PVC membrane that is stretched over arched panels. The exterior of the building will act as a canvas for an artistic and innovative lighting design, which will minimize the use of artificial lighting.

One thought on “The “Green Games”

  1. Great post Heather, and timely as well! I would also point out that with regards to your “temporary structures” point, stadium seating sections of the Zaha Hadid designed Aquatics Center are removable and will be pulled from the sides of the structure after the games have finished. What remains will be a fully functional aquatics facility with seating numbers appropriate for swimming events other than the Olympics.

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