The cuckoo in Beijing’s nest

Shaun McCarthy

August 22, 2008   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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Beijing Day 3 135 - for web

We have all seen the pictures on the TV and in the papers but nothing could prepare me for the experience of the Bird’s Nest. The stadium is truly breathtaking and the emotional experience of being there to see the world’s elite sports people compete is like nothing I have ever witnessed.

I was at Wembley to see my small town football club lift the FA cup in 1976 and I saw England lose to the Germans on penalties in the Euro 96 semi-final, I also saw the England rugby union team win back-to-back Grand Slams at Twickenham but these do not compare to the sense of excitement and national pride which emanates from every person here and resonates in the very fabric of the building.

London will not compete on these terms, the buildings will not be as iconic and we won’t have better fireworks. So what can we learn?

I expect London 2012 to be iconic in its sustainability. When we see the 2012 Olympic flame ignited (Redgrave gets my vote), it will be fuelled by a form of renewable energy which is still being developed by EDF. This, and many other innovations will show the world what London can do.

The Bird’s Nest took 45,000 tonnes of steel to construct, when you witness this mass of steel first hand it becomes obvious that the steel is mostly there to support more steel for decorative purposes.

There are no figures for the amount of concrete used but London expects to use 1 million tonnes and Beijing could easily double this figure. The science of “Embodied Energy” is relatively new and has only recently begun to be considered in construction. Depending how the energy was generated, it takes at least 2 tonnes of CO2 to make a tonne of steel and 4 tonnes to make a tonne of concrete.

According to Greenpeace, the Beijing team has eliminated up to 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 through energy saving projects, but this figure is likely to be dwarfed by the energy used to create the facilities and infrastructure, which could be the equivalent of the annual emissions of an airline. London 2012 will have lighter, smarter buildings that minimise their impact on the environment in construction and in use.

As China emerges as a world superpower I hope the nation can learn from the example of the London Games to address all the causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

This post also appears at www.building.co.uk

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