The London 2012 Olympic Games had a commitment to being the ‘greenest games’ with five key headline themes and twelve sustainability objectives covering topics such as carbon, waste, materials and environmental impacts. As key delivery partners for the event, Arup worked closely with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to achieve this ambitious aim.
By establishing a full-time sustainability team within the design team, we were able to consult with the client throughout the project on sustainability priorities, translating targets into actions for the engineers, and reviewing new products and techniques to establish their viability and alignment with the ODA’s priorities.
Additionally, the team undertook assessments of embodied carbon and life cycle impacts for different designs and materials. We then developed specifications to ensure the best sustainability outcomes in areas such as recycled content, reuse of original site materials and responsible sourcing.
Sustainable development was integral to all the design team’s activities. Our approach to ‘lean design’ achieved significant reductions in materials used, minimising carbon emissions as a result.
We were also involved in assisting the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) during the temporary overlay design and operational period of the park. This hands-on role helped us to achieve key targets associated with waste recycling, while avoiding the risk of environmental incidents.
Our structures, bridges and highways designs for the Olympic Park changed significantly from the original scheme design to the final construction design. Reducing embodied carbon, these changes brought about changes in the volumes and types of materials used, often through the reduction and realignment of structures and the incorporation of existing infrastructure.
In collaboration with the ODA, we undertook a bridge optimisation study that reduced both the number and the size of bridges across the park. We identified a number of design simplifications which improved the project’s sustainability without compromising the design requirements. The revised bridge design plan removed unnecessary bridges and replaced large sections of permanent bridges with leaner, temporary structures. This approach saved at least 44,900 tonnes of CO² (26% reduction).
Reducing the loop road's embodied carbon
The Olympic Park’s highways network consists of a loop road which circulates the park. Initially, a new highway construction was proposed. However, by realigning the original loop road to incorporate existing highway sections, the need to construct a new highway was avoided, saving 462 tonnes of CO² (9% reduction).
Designing sustainable structures
The development of the Olympic Park included the construction of retaining walls, concourses, embankments, and foot and highway bridges that would persist throughout the event and beyond. The foundations for many of these consisted of pile structures. By increasing the use of cement replacement materials from 20% to 40% in concrete used for these, we were able to significantly reduce their carbon footprint. These actions resulted in a total reduction of embodied CO² of approximately 615 tonnes (24% reduction).
We reported on sustainability performance against KPIs (key performance indicators) and assisted the ODA and CEEQUAL in developing a bespoke CEEQUAL assessment process to understand the performance of the complex, multi-package project. Seven CEEQUAL assessments were completed to assess our design works, and all of these achieved the highest score of ‘Excellent’ following independent verification.in developing a bespoke CEEQUAL assessment process to understand the performance of the complex, multi-package project. Seven CEEQUAL assessments were completed to assess our design works, and all of these achieved the highest score of ‘Excellent’ following independent verification.