Sunday20 August 2017

Stadium disappoints all round

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The London Olympic stadium, which was unveiled this week, came with some carefully crafted words about sustainability. Leaving aside that the design itself is not as claimed by the ODA “innovative and ground-breaking”, there are far more serious questions to be asked about its legacy and its value for money.

First, there is nothing sustainable about building a 80,000-seat stadium for less than two months’ use. Apart from the pollution caused by its construction, let alone the time and effort by all involved, the legacy plans are still unclear.

Football won’t go there because the seats are too far away, and a closer look at the drawings reveals it would be impossible to shrink the roof down to cover the permanent seating, begging the question of who would want to take on an open-air stadium in our climate?

Then there is the structure itself, which is to be removed and, we’re told, reused. There has been vague talk about palming it off on Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, but why would anyone want to buy something that’s been purpose-designed for a totally different event?

This leads to the cost. Most of the hefty £500 million construction bill is taken up by the temporary stadium, which in terms of cost per seat is the most expensive in the world. This, by the way, does not include dismantling the discarded structure, and neither does it appear to include the cost of the pods, containing facilities like loos, which will also be removed post-Games.

And finally to the design. Rod Sheard of HOK Sport has gone out of his way to stress that this is not an iconic building, although apparently it will look good from the air. Design was never at the forefront of the procurement process like it should have been, and the ODA — for reasons it must now regret — did not hold a competition for its most important Olympic building.

Peter Cook’s involvement looks to be non-existent, and after all the hype, it’s difficult not to feel disappointed

It’s actually a kit stadium, and while we all hoped Peter Cook’s involvement might have lent a certain je ne sais quoi, his presence seems to have been non-existent. Even so, must it look quite so cheap?

The much-hyped wrap is what is used for hoardings on posh construction sites in the City — a bit of fabric with pretty pictures on it — and the stadium will be uncomfortable. Facilities are a huge trek (except for the VIPs) because there is only one concourse, and some people will get wet. The roof only covers two thirds of the seats, and is not the rather sophisticated folding roof early designs hinted at.

After all the waiting, it’s difficult not to feel disappointed. Yes, it will be a serviceable stadium for the Games, but it’s bad value for money, probably the least sustainable stadium ever built, and could become an even bigger white elephant than the Dome.

Eco-homes: what is achievable?

Eco-towns have proved a surprising hit with local authorities, which are queuing round the block to build one of the 10 promised in this week’s Queen’s Speech. But will they be so keen now? As BD reveals, making homes zero-carbon is proving more difficult than expected.

The problem is the government, which has set the benchmark unrealistically high. Five years ago, issues around airtightness or whether materials had been correctly certified were not on developers’ radar. Now they are, it is proving devilishly difficult to get right. No-one is to blame, this is tricky stuff, but let’s cut the fine words and talk about what can be achieved and what can’t.


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