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London 2012 Aquatics Centre, London

With its distinctive architecture and focus on legacy use, the Aquatics Centre was designed to be sustainable.

Arup contributed to the construction of the Aquatics Centre which, after the Games, will be enjoyed by future champions, schools, visitors and local residents. Our multi-disciplinary engineering skills fulfilled architect Zaha Hadid’s vision for the stunning Aquatics Centre. The facility was designed primarily for legacy use with temporary structures built to accommodate spectators during the 2012 Games.

Low-energy legacy

With its distinctive architecture and focus on legacy use, the Aquatics Centre was designed to be sustainable within the most demanding cost constraints. The most effective sustainability measures - such as best practice insulation and envelope air tightness and use of daylight – were built in from the beginning. The main pool hall is naturally lit throughout, the pool tanks are insulated, and an adaptable environmental control system works with the large volume of the hall, using a ventilation system split into local zones that can be turned on and off to meet demand.

We reduced the impact of concrete by using secondary aggregates and cement replacement material. Overall, the Aquatic Centre exceeded the targets set by the client and were given a BREEAM Innovation Credit for the concrete mixes used. The water treatment systems are also demand controlled and our design will help the legacy operator to save money by reducing power, water and chemical consumption. Overall, we reduced potable water use by 42%.

Complex Geometry

To handle the complex geometry involved in the design for both the roof and the main concrete building, the team made extensive use of 3D modelling, with models shared across different specialisms. The resulting unified building is testament to how effectively our specialists worked together. Arup’s culture encourages problem-solving, making it easier for us to explore possibilities and respond creatively to the challenges set by architects and clients.

The Roof

The distinctive long-span roof is a stunning piece of architecture. Arup was involved in the roof from scheme design and detailed design through to fabrication and erection. Throughout this time our challenge was to make the flowing geometry that Zaha Hadid Architects defined for the long-span roof work effectively. This meant bringing down the self-weight of the structure, which our structural engineers achieved through clever design and an iterative process to ensure each section of steel was fully utilised.

Wind was also a key design load. The roof neededs to resist the wind loads in three different configurations: during construction with no podium structure or façade; in Olympic mode with the temporary stands; and in Legacy mode with the temporary stands removed and the Legacy façade installed. Refined wind loads were determined through extensive use of wind tunnel testing to gather simultaneous measurements across the entire roof.

Strict requirements for the substructure meant our specialists had to think creatively. Long spans are usually arches, which require abutments or ties. However the design needed to move away from an arch solution to minimise the interdependence of the roof and substructure and make the roof easier to build. So we decided on a series of trusses, spanning in the long direction, and supported at just three points – making for an effective structure with limited supports.

The roof not only spans a large length, but a large width too. In the centre, the depth was used to span the distance using truss sections; but where the roof becomes thinner towards the wings, our team had to find a different solution. The inclined arch shape geometry of the roof in the cantilever wings was used, meaning that the structure could support itself. The result is an efficient, elegant, and buildable structure.