Viewpoint: Public praise for sustainable Velodrome

Public praise for sustainable Velodrome

01/10/2012

Sean Brew

The Velodrome’s beauty and finesse stole the show at the Olympic Park development.

It is a game-changer for the way we will design, build and manage property assets. Are we making enough noise about it?

As the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority prepares to take over the running of the Olympic Park’s world-class Velodrome, it is worth recalling the commitment of the Olympic Development Authority (ODA) in 2005. By committing to deliver the greenest Games ever, the ODA put sustainability firmly on the map and struck a chord with the community at large.

Transformed from contaminated industrial wasteland to ecological utopia, with eight kilometres of waterways, 650 wildlife havens and secure parking for 7,000 bicycles, the 200 hectare park screams sustainability, community and carbon-consciousness at every turn. The 2012 Games became known as the ‘happy and glorious games’, not just because of the smiles of the 70,000 volunteers, but because those responsible for designing, delivering and managing the Park’s built environment had considered its effect on the psyche of the visiting public. The Park’s ambience helped visitors to relax and smile.

Environmental excellence meets mass-market appeal

Transformed from contaminated industrial wasteland to ecological utopia, with eight kilometres of waterways, 650 wildlife havens and secure parking for 7,000 bicycles, the 200 hectare park screams sustainability, community and carbon-consciousness at every turn. The 2012 Games became known as the ‘happy and glorious games’, not just because of the smiles of the 70,000 volunteers, but because those responsible for designing, delivering and managing the Park’s built environment had considered its effect on the psyche of the visiting public. The Park’s ambience helped visitors to relax and smile.

Environmental excellence meets mass-market appeal

Towards the Park’s northern boundary, the beauty and finesse of the Velodrome comes into view. Of all the Olympic venues, the Velodrome stole the show for its design and sustainability characteristics, winning the Architect’s Journal ‘Building of the Year’ award in 2011. It also attracted over 60% of the Stirling Prize’s ‘people’s poll’ in the same year, as testament to its widespread popularity. Not only is it already a design classic and sustainability tour de force, it also informs the future of mainstream commercial property design, construction, redevelopment and management.

Clad in 5,000m of sustainably forested Western Red Cedar, and with a distinctive saddle-back double-curve roof which weighs just 30kg/sq m, the building is naturally, passively ventilated, eliminating the need for air-conditioning in the main arena. It employs 240 laminated rooflights which allow natural light to pour into the arena. The roof itself, which employs 17km of cable in a cable net construction, utilises just 10% of the steel used in the roof of the Beijing Velodrome. The roof’s 13,000 sq m area should harvest more than twice the volume of rainwater required each year for the building’s toilets and parkland irrigation. The Velodrome’s sustainability credentials just go on and on.

A building to shout about

The success of the Velodrome can be attributed to the integration of ideas from building designers and developers working in conjunction with operations and maintenance teams. This was a collaborative, iterative effort which guaranteed, upon the insistence of the ODA, that important sustainability characteristics should not be value-engineered out of the equation. That decision has made all the difference.

The Velodrome exemplifies the UK’s progressive attitude towards sustainable property investment, development and management. We should take pride in this important part of our 2012 Olympic legacy.

This article is part of Asset Class autumn 2012.

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