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The London 2012 Olympics: Faster, Higher, Stronger… Greener

Jul 31, 12 The London 2012 Olympics: Faster, Higher, Stronger… Greener

Courtesy of Pat Byington, The Green Register Editor

I am addicted to the Olympics. Like many people, I am glued to the television, watching the Michael Phelps/Ryan Lochte battle, and waiting for the next “feel good” story.

But there is one untold story that has caught my attention about the London Olympics. The effort to make this particular Olympics the greenest ever.

In a recent article on sustainablebusiness.com, the publication listed an impressive list of green goals London organizers set out to accomplish.

First and foremost, organizers and city officials embedded environmental sustainability from the start, vowing to clean up brownfields and rejuvenate the inner city, use the latest green construction techniques, make the games carbon neutral and create zero waste.

For example, the 500-acre Olympic Park is one of the largest urban development projects in Europe. Before construction, 200 buildings had to be demolished and the brownfield they sat on cleaned up. Instead of sending all that waste into a landfill, 99% of the demolition waste was reused to build Olympic Park, and two million tons of contaminated soil – enough to fill Yankee Stadium twice – was cleaned.

When the games end there will be 2,818 new homes and the largest new urban park in Europe in 150 years will also provide the city wetlands habitat and flood protection.

In the area of energy and water, Olympic Park has a state of the art Energy Center. It runs on a biomass -powered Combined Heat and Power plant, which captures heat generated by electricity production. The plant is so green, the exterior of the building looks like brick, even though it is actually recycled, crushed steel from demolished buildings.

Buildings throughout the park are designed to maximize natural ventilation and lessen air conditioning. They are also using 30-40% less water because they are capturing rainwater and recycling wastewater for irrigation.

One of the most daunting tasks was the zero waste goal. Along with reusing the demolition and construction waste, food packaging that can’t be recycled is made from compostable materials, with much of the waste going into anaerobic digesters to produce renewable energy.

Some other sustainability story lines from the Olympics:

  • Part of the supporting structure for the Olympic Stadium’s roof is made from 2500 tons of steel tubes recycled from old gas pipelines.
  • The 7000- seat handball arena has lighting pipes on the roof that reduce electricity 40% and the exterior is made from recycled concrete and copper.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be watching  Olympians from all over the world strive to be “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”  It is good to see that organizers of the London Olympics added “greener, sustainable, renewable” to the Olympic motto.

To learn more about the “greening” of the Olympics, visit GetSet.London2012.com

Image Credit: Pat Byington

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