The 2012 London Olympics could very well be the most sustainable Summer Games on record. Critics may be quick to highlight such sponsors as BP and Dow Chemical, and the creation of the world’s largest McDonald’s (albeit a temporary one), not to mention strange moments such as London Mayor Boris Johnson's move to manipulate pollution levels using dodgy chemicals. Nevertheless, no Olympic organizers have worked harder to make this massive event more environmentally responsible than London 2012. That commitment has carried over to many of the Games’ buildings, including the main Olympic Stadium, the lightest ever built. The 80,000 seat stadium boasts a bevy of sustainable construction features, including rainwater harvesting, a fabric roof and interesting choices in recycled materials. With no disrespect to the Game’s focal point, we here at Inhabitat have come up with what we believe are the six greenest buildings built for the 2012 London Olympics.
The London Velodrome, part of the Velopark bicycling center in east London, anchors the northern end of the city’s Olympic Park. Both the indoor velodrome and nearby BMX racing track will remain after the games conclude in August. The Velodrome’s curved exterior, covered in wood paneling, reflects the sleek race track inside. The 6000 seat structure benefits from natural ventilation instead of a reliance on air conditioning thanks to the exterior’s timber cladding. The use of artificial light is also minimized because of the velodrome’s rooftop skylights. A rainwater harvesting system also reduces the amount of water needed for toilet flushing and grounds irrigation, but London’s Olympic organizers said the costs of installing such a system far exceeded the financial benefits.
The Olympic basketball arena not only dazzles, but democratizes. Completed last year on time and under budget at £30 million, the arena is the Olympics’ largest temporary venue. The flatpack design will allow for dismantling and future reuse elsewhere in the world. Rumors have it that the arena could even be sold to the organizers of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro or be reassembled in a poorer country in the future. Its lighter design also meant less steel and concrete were used in this 12,000 seat facility. While past Olympic hosts including Atlanta, Athens and Beijing are stuck with “white elephants” as the result of hosting these lavish events, London’s basketball area is a step in showing that the Games can be more responsible and sustainable.
Standing out with its wave-shaped roof, the Olympics’ second-largest building after the main Olympic Stadium is the first structure visitors see as they approach the Olympic Park. Built on a brownfield site, the Aquatics Centre’s stunning ceiling, which soars over the two 50-meter pools, were built out of sustainably sourced Red Lauro timber. The exterior was constructed with precast modular blocks of concrete, which not only reduced the amount of emissions required to build the facility, but also eliminated the need for painting. The interior stands are made from steel and phthalate-free PVC wrap that will be recycled after the games. And most of the building materials, including the 866,000 tiles needed to line the pool and locker rooms, were delivered by train instead of truck.
The Copper Box
We are not into handball too much on this side of the pond, but the sport is popular among men and women throughout Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the Balkans and Korea. If you have scored a ticket to the Handball Arena, or the “Copper Box,” you will sit in one of the most interesting and sustainable Olympic venues this summer. Lighting pipes on the roof decrease electricity costs by 40 percent, a rainwater harvesting system will take stress off the local water grid and the exterior’s panels are in part derived from recycled copper. Built partially out of bricks sourced from construction dust, the 7000 seat arena will remain after the games but will be used for smaller athletic and local community events.
Shooting Ranges at the Royal Artillery Barracks
The Royal Artillery Barracks were an important training center for British soldiers from the early 19th century until 2007. Site of the longest Georgian-style facade in the United Kingdom, the former home of the Royal Artillery will host shooting events during this summer’s Games. In stark contrast with this 200 year old building will stand three indoor shooting ranges. Each of the temporary venues was built from steel, clad in plywood and then covered in more of the phthalate-free PVC membrane that will be recycled after the games. But what is the most cutting-edge feature? Each of the buildings is laden with octopus-like suckers that will allow natural ventilation to circulate inside. The shooting ranges will be dismantled and be rented for other events after the Games’ conclusion.
The Energy Centre
It is the least sexy of the Olympic venues but arguably is the most important. Tasked with heating, cooling and powering the Olympic Zone, the Energy Center is nod to sustainable design staring with its modular construction. Like a giant set of LEGOs, the facility can add more capacity by adding additional units when more capacity is needed in the surrounding east London neighborhood. Energy efficient gas boilers, along with a biomass boiler that uses wood chips, generate heat. An adjacent pumping station takes in wastewater, recycles it, and then distributes it for the nearby park’s irrigation as well as for that timeless water hog, toilet flushing. Its exterior reminds locals and visitors of the iconic Battersea Power Station, but instead of brick, its exterior is composed of rusted Corten steel layered over a protective cover of rubber.