Amidst the excitement of athletic accomplishments at this year’s summer Olympics, a significant achievement for sustainable design was recognized as well. Last week, on Wednesday, August 13, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson presented Chinese officials with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold award for the 2008 Olympic village. The world-class development boasts a variety of sustainable features including solar panels, green roofs, and an extensive rainwater recycling system.

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According to Michael Kwok, Olympic project director for Arup, a British-based architecture and engineering firm, “there was a general objective that this was the ‘Green Olympics.’” While the Olympic Village is a segment of the celebrated athletic event’s environmentally-friendly planning, a major goal for the Olympic Village was that its practices and techniques would also serve as a model for future development in China.

Currently housing 16,000 Olympic athletes, the 160-acre site contains 42 residential buildings ranging between six- and nine- stories, seven community centers, three commercial and retail buildings, a health center, library, gyms, swimming pools, tennis courts, and a kindergarten. Using high levels of insulation, energy efficient windows, and a system that collects and re-uses rainwater for heating and cooling, these buildings are 50 percent more energy efficient than most other buildings in Beijing. The apartments are also partially powered by solar energy and use greywater to flush toliets.

Developers also considered the conservation of water in the infrastructure of the village, planning for stormwater runoff, wastewater management, and open green space. Vegetated green roofs make up more than 60 percent of the impervious surface on rooftops, and 95 percent of parking was constructed underground, freeing up area for open green space as well as a network of pedestrian and bicycle pathways. Landscaping of outdoor spaces incorporates a water-efficient irrigation system and a selection of drought-resistant and native plants. The ample amount of green space also reduces the amount of stormwater runoff coming from the village.

Developers of the Olympic Village plan to convert the community into luxury apartments in early 2009, with 80 percent of the apartments already sold.

+ US Green Building Council

+ Official website of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games