London 2012: On target venues

12th July 2012


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  • Generation ,
  • Renewable



An insight into how the iconic venues of the London 2012 Olympics have been designed and built to meet tough targets to reduce water and energy consumption and cut carbon emissions

The Olympic park development’s strict environment targets are well known, including the requirements to reduce water by 40% and carbon by 50%. There was also a sub-target to use 20% renewable energy.

By the end of 2011, the ODA had achieved both the carbon and water targets, reporting a 58% and 60% reduction respectively against the 2006 industry standard baseline.

The original renewable energy target will be missed, however. It was revised down during planning in 2011 to 9%, following a decision the previous year not to proceed with the construction of a 2MW wind turbine. Nonetheless, the ODA still expects 11% of energy to come from renewable sources.

Rather than expand renewable generation at the park, the ODA has invested in efficiency measures in 2,800 local homes and 12 schools, which more than compensates for the shortfall.

The design and construction of the iconic buildings on the park have done much to help the ODA achieve its carbon and water targets. Despite being obliged under its planning requirements to meet Part L of the 2006 Building Regulations, the venues all exceed the more difficult 2010 Part L standards.

The aquatics centre, the copper box (formerly known as the handball arena), Eton Manor, which is home to three training pools, and the velodrome have all achieved a BREEAM excellent rating, while the Olympic stadium and main press centre (MPC) are on track to achieve excellent in legacy.

In addition, 13 permanent infrastructure projects at the park and the athletes’ village have achieved a CEEQUAL excellent score, and another six are on course to achieve excellent.

Power in the park

Energy-efficiency measures have delivered a 17% reduction in the park’s operational carbon footprint. A further 29% saving will be achieved from the low-carbon heat and power supplied to venues from the on-site energy centre.

The Olympic park energy strategy requires each venue to attain a minimum 15% improvement against Part L of the 2006 Building Regulations, and this had to be achieved through energy efficiency alone, so no potential savings from the energy supplied by the energy centre or from renewables could be taken into account. These targets were written into the design briefs for the venues.

The velodrome has achieved a 32% energy-efficiency improvement over Part L 2006, increasing to a 59% improvement once the energy centre is factored in. Based on energy efficiency alone, the copper box and Eton Manor score a 20% and 21.8% improvement respectively, while the MPC scores 17.2%, the aquatics centre 15.3%, and the Olympic stadium 15.1%. Overall, the energy-efficiency measures are expected to deliver annual CO2 savings of 1,630 tonnes.

Some of the measures used in the venues include: reduced infiltration rates through airtight construction; lighting controls, low-velocity ductwork and pipework; and efficient building services for heating, cooling and ventilation.

The energy centre, located in King’s Yard (the only building to be retained following demolition of the park site), houses a 3.3MW natural gas-fired combined cooling, heating and power (CCHP) engine, which is forecast to reduce annual CO2 emissions by at least 2,200 tonnes.

It is also home to a 3MW thermal biomass boiler, which uses woodchips and should save at least 1,000 tonnes of CO2 each year. The CCHP engine converts natural gas into electricity, and heats and chills water (through ammonia absorption chillers).

The centre uses the UK’s largest community heating and cooling network (40km) to supply the venues; all permanent venues and the athletes’ village receive heat, while the MPC and the copper box also receive cooling.

Additional energy is supplied by seven small (5KW) vertical wind turbines, to power lighting in the Olympic park gardens, and photovoltaic (PV) panels on the MPC – more PVs will be installed in the multistorey car park during post-games work. PVs are not installed more widely on other venues because the roofs would have required significant reinforcement, meaning additional materials and more embodied carbon.

Water flows through it

The ODA target for a 40% reduction in the demand for potable water for all permanent venues, compared with industry practice in 2006, has been exceeded. The venues have all delivered water-efficiency results ahead of industry standards, including those brought in by Part G of the Building Regulations 2010.

The ODA made it clear in its water strategy that venues should reduce demand through a combination of water-efficiency technologies – such as low-flush toilets and aerating flow restrictor taps with automatic shut-off and leak-detection systems – and management practices. Demand substitution, through the use of non-potable supplies, was also permitted to ensure the 40% goal was achieved.

Every venue, with the exception of the aquatics centre, has achieved the target. The velodrome has secured a 75% reduction; themain press centre a 73% decrease; the copper box achieved a 59.5% cut; Eton Manor 55%; the Olympic stadium 52%; and aquatics centre 32%. Overall, 18% was achieved through water-efficiency measures, leaving 22% to be met by non-potable sources.

In terms of demand substitution, both the velodrome and the copper box installed rainwater-harvesting systems, while the aquatics centre introduced a system to recycle backwash water.

Rainwater is harvested from half the velodrome roof and is used to flush toilets and urinals, and for irrigation. It is designed to reduce the cycling venue’s use of potable water by 20%, equivalent to 530m3 a year.

The backwash recycling system at the aquatics centre reduces its potable water consumption by a further 3%, bringing the overall total reduction in demand to 32%. The system works by recycling the water used to clean the pools’ filters – 19,800 litres over a 10-day cycle.

The other major source of non-potable water is the blackwater treatment works at Old Ford, which provides supplies to the energy centre and all the permanent venues, with the exception of the aquatics centre, via a 3.65km network.

Run by Thames Water, the treatment works uses membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology to recycle raw sewage, greywater and surface water runoff from communities in north London for toilet flushing, irrigation (only the London 2012 gardens and the Great British garden require permanent irrigation) and cooling at the energy centre, which is the biggest user of water in the park, consuming 27% of all water supplies.

The Old Ford plant is designed to supply 46 megalitres of non-potable water annually. It is the largest blackwater treatment facility in the UK using MBR technology, and is a pilot for Thames Water.

Holly Knight
Head of sustainability, ODA

Originally energy and water manager for CLM, the ODA’s delivery partner, and most recently ODA head of sustainability, Holly Knight has worked on the Olympic park almost continuously since July 2008.

Her first role, during the design and construction phase, was centred mainly on developing and delivering the strategy to meet the park’s carbon reduction and potable water targets. Her role now is primarily focused on closing out the sustainability targets from the client side, handing over the park to the London Legacy Development Corporation and ensuring the Olympic park learning legacy programme is disseminated widely.

“I started out dealing almost exclusively with energy and water issues as my background was in water resource, energy and carbon management, but my role now is all about sustainability,” says Knight.

She explains that this transition required her to develop new skills and knowledge, particularly in areas such as biodiversity and waste, something that was helped by the make-up of the environment and sustainability team. “My colleagues at CLM really helped,” she acknowledges. “The way the team was structured meant it was a great mix of people with wide-ranging skills, so we could learn from each other.”

While Knight’s responsibilities have included working with the energy centre team, which will provide low-carbon heating and cooling to the park’s venues and buildings during and after the games, she is particularly proud of her involvement in the wastewater recycling plant.

“I think of it as ‘my baby’, but it was a huge collaborative effort between the ODA, Thames Water and lots of consultants and contractors,” says Knight. “It will help us to reduce potable water by 60%, far exceeding the original 40% target.”

She explains that her role was to produce the design brief and business case and to act as the initial design manager. The plant is located in the south of the park and is the largest community wastewater recycling facility in the UK.

Before joining CLM/ODA, Knight was a carbon consultant in the UK and worked on carbon and water projects in her native Australia. She continues to study, and should complete a masters degree in interdisciplinary design for the built environment next year.

Darren White
Environment and sustainability assurance manager, CLM

Until late June 2012, Darren White was environment and sustainability manager for CLM, a project management role for the environment management and monitoring team. He was also the stakeholder engagement lead for the programme and the single point of contact for logistics, landscaping, the athletes’ village, the stadium and the aquatics centre.

Over the past four years, White’s key responsibilities have included: developing and delivering the ODA’s stakeholder engagement strategy, particularly its relationship with environment regulators and government bodies; acting as lead auditor in ensuring the environment and sustainability targets are met in areas such as responsible sourcing, recycled content and legal compliance; project managing the assessment of the cumulative impacts from construction activities on the park; coordinating the on-site environment monitoring team; and delivering the corporate responsibility (CR) programme on the construction project.

Having previously worked on several major construction projects, including the extension and restoration of St Pancras International and the part-privatisation of the London Underground, White joined CLM, the ODA’s delivery partner, at first as the technical lead for noise and vibration and to set up the environment monitoring programme.

“The previous head of environment for CLM knew that I was heavily involved in defending a prosecution for allegedly breaching a section 61 consent [which allows noise from construction activities] and he wanted someone who would ensure the project wasn’t delayed through potential breaches or notices. As we had to carry out approximately twice the amount of construction at the main Olympic park as at Terminal 5, but in half the time, he knew that working 24/7 without causing a disturbance to the site’s neighbours would be a key to the success of the programme,” recalls White.

He has several highlights from his time at the park. One is engaging and challenging suppliers to raise the sustainability credentials of a product. Examples include getting architects and designers to accept a concrete mix with a high proportion of recycled content and alternative products with better sustainability credentials. He is also proud of his work developing and implementing the CR programme, and encouraging some of the construction industry’s major companies to commit either time or resources to local community projects.

Developing a good working relationship with environment regulators was another highlight. “It was critical to the success of the project,” he explains. “This relationship resulted in a reduction in consenting timescales, better access to key decision-makers, consistent responses and effective conflict resolution.”

White has learned much from working on such a high-profile project, including the importance of developing a good rapport with people. “There are always times when you have to come down on people for not delivering or failing to follow processes, but in general more progress is made if you work together to resolve an issue.”

Another skill he has developed is programme management. “This is something that I picked up from senior managers in my parent company and is something that the Americans excel in,” he says. “Project management focuses on a single issue, whereas programme management provides an oversight of the purpose and status of all projects in a programme and can support project-level activity to ensure the overall programme goals are met.

“As sustainability professionals we can use this process for raising strategic issues; however, you need to ensure that they are strategic or programme-critical and not at ‘bins and bogs’ level.”

White has been a member of IEMA for 14 years, a MIEMA for six years and is an IEMA-approved lead environment management systems auditor. He now works as a senior sustainability consultant for CH2M Hill.


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