National Aquatics Center (Water Cube)

The highly sustainable structure is clad with ethyl tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) that weighs just 1% of an equivalent sized glass panel.

The bubble cladding lets in more light and is a better thermal insulator than glass and thoroughly cleans itself with every rain shower.

ETFE for sustainablility

About 20% of the solar energy falling on the building is trapped within it and used to heat the swimming pools and the interior area.

The translucent and recyclable ETFE panels ensure the centre is well lit during the day with appropriate levels of internal daylight, visual connection and visual comfort. Up to 55% savings on lighting energy use are achieved in the leisure pool hall.

To reduce the energy consumption of the centre further, the design has incorporated many energy recovery systems, such as heat recovery from warm exhaust air for warming up the cold outside air (fresh air supply).

Since Beijing suffers from water shortage, water conservation was also central to Arup’s design philosophy. The firm proposed the reuse and recycling of 80% of water harvested from the roof catchment areas, pool backwash systems and overland flows. These aim to reduce the reliance and pressures on local receiving waters and the municipal water supply system by discharging directly to the sewer system.

Seismic design

Although fragile in appearance, the structure is ideally suited to the seismic conditions in Beijing and is arguably the most seismically-resistant building in the world.

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  • Close up of Water Cube skin. Credit Zhou Ruogu Architecture Photography.Open gallery

    Carefully filtered natural light takes the quality of the interior spaces to a new level of sustainability.