Keeping the Athletes' Village green

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The concrete framed and clad athletes’ housing was built to last, and is now set for a long future as a low-carbon London neighbourhood

Now that the Olympics and Paralympics have closed, attention can begin to turn to the intriguing afterlife planned for the athletes’ village. As part of the legacy commitment, the competitors’ living quarters will be reconfigured to make a mix of family homes - some 2,818 in total- with a whole London neighbourhood emergingaround the new streets and public squares.

The 2012 Athletes' village

Source: Locog

The village’s polyclinic will continue to provide healthcare to the new community

While the village feels European in scale due to the height of the perimeter apartment blocks, there are also strong echoes of London’s heritage: the shared resident gardens within the buildings are reminiscent of west London mansion blocks, and there is a sense of the long, narrow terraces of the east of the city too. Each block comprises seven buildings, three of which face onto a primary road and rise to up 10 storeys above ground floor commercial space. The rest of the blocks are made up of four triplex buildings with family houses and apartments. Car parks are hidden beneath landscaped podiums.

The village is the first large-scale, high-density, high-rise scheme to be developed to level four of the Code for Sustainable Homes and it also serves as a BREEAM Communities pilot project. To achieve level four, the design had to focus on ecology and building management, as well as pollution, waste, surface water and energy. In the choice of construction materials, the emphasis was on longterm holistic performance.

The 2012 Athletes' village

The blocks have commercial outlets at ground level

Post-tensioned concrete frames, many with precast concrete cladding, are used throughout the village, providing good thermal efficiency to reduce the heating and cooling needs of the buildings over their lifetime. The concrete also includes ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS) as a cement replacement and is sourced from the UK - local, responsible sourcing being a key element of the Olympics’ sustainability objectives.

To give a varied streetscape, a number of architects were selected to design the envelope of each block. Design guidelines have ensured a visual consistency, despite the differing elevation treatments of projecting balconies, sculptured facades, impressed patterns and barcode motifs.

Changing rooflines add further variety and help to break up the volume of the blocks.

This is a mass housing development that is considered and well planned. Post-Games, the village has a strong chance of developing into a real urban community, just the first stage of an eventual 11,000 homes envisaged around what will now be known as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Faster higher stronger leaner

With high recycled content and low embodied carbon, the concrete used to build the homes and venues in the Olympic park was at the top of its game

Concrete construction has been used throughout the Olympic park and athletes’ village to help London 2012 to achieve its sustainability and legacy objectives.

The bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games included a radical proposal entitled Towards a One Planet Olympics. This committed London to host the world’s first truly sustainable Olympic Games. With an initial estimate suggesting that 500,000m3 of readymixed concrete and equivalent aggregate weighing 1 million tonnes would be required for the project, the opportunities to maximise the sustainability credentials of cement supply and concrete construction were closely examined.

The first key decision was the procurement of a single ready-mix concrete batching plant to provide concrete to all projects within the Olympic park.

This ensured a local, responsibly sourced supply and eliminated 70,000 road vehicle movements.

The 2012 Athletes' village

Source: David Poultney

The concrete supply was locally sourced from a single batching plant

Then the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) worked with the concrete supply chain to develop a range of sustainable concrete mixes. This resulted in the use of 170,000 tonnes of recycled and secondary aggregate, such as pulverised fuel ash (a by-product of coal-fired power stations), ground granulated blast furnace slag (a waste product associated with steel manufacture) and stent (a waste product of the Cornish china clay industry).

The 2012 Athletes' village

Source: David Poultney

The concrete poured at the park included 22% recycled and secondary aggregate

This accounted for almost a quarter of the concrete content on the project and saved 30,000 tonnes of embodied carbon dioxide. Rationalisation and design efficiency reduced the concrete demand by 65,000m3, saving further embodied CO2.

The use of concrete will also help to reduce the operational CO2 of the Games and its future legacy.

The future homes at the athletes’ village (see opposite) have been built from concrete to provide a high level of thermal efficiency and reduce future heating and cooling needs. The robustness and fire resistance of the stadium’s tiered concrete seating and of the aquatics centre minimise the need for additional materials and for ongoing maintenance.

To help to meet the Games’ sustainability objectives, the concrete supply chain has also been able to call upon its Concrete Sustainable Construction Strategy. This landmark pan-industry agreement has as its central premise that “by 2012, the UK concrete industry will be recognised as the leader in sustainable construction, by taking a dynamic role in delivering a sustainable built environment in a manner that is profitable, socially responsible and functions within environmental limits”.

The 2010 Sustainability Performance Report found that 88% of concrete production was responsibly sourced to the BRE standard BES 6001 - higher than any other construction material sector. It also found that the industry now consumes almost 47 times more waste, by-products and secondary materials from other industries than it sends to landfill.

The Olympic park was always intended to deliver a lasting legacy for London, and to be a genuinely sustainable development. Over the long term, its success will be judged not on the bright but fleeting glory of the Games themselves but on solid improvements such as these.

Project Team
Olympic Delivery Authority
Masterplanners Fletcher Priest, Arup Associates, West 8, AHMM, Patel Taylor, Vogt Landscape
Architects AHMM, CF Møller, Denton Corker Marshall, de Rijke Marsh Morgan, DSDHA, Eric Parry, Glenn Howells, Ian Simpson, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Make, Niall McLaughlin, Panter Hudspith, Patel Taylor, Penoyre & Prasad, Piercy Conner
Main contractor
Bovis Lend Lease


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