It was great to take our Commissioners on a tour of the Olympic Village and many thanks to Nigel Garfitt, Tony Sainsbury and the team from LOCOG for patiently showing us round and giving us their valuable time so close to the Games.
The first impression of the experience is high security, we had 3 separate ID checks to get into the Village and for specific buildings. Nigel is the director responsible for the Village and many other aspects of the Games, his pass did not have the correct date so he was refused entry until the error had been corrected. I appreciate that a large amount of additional security is necessary to ensure the Games are safe but our Commissioners have expressed concern that additional scrutiny may continue in wider society after the Games and infringe the civil liberties of the most watched nation on earth. There has to be a balance after the Games.
The Village is the first to be located within walking distance of the main competition venues and the excellent public transport links to central London will provide a great experience for athletes of the 208 nations who will descend on us in less than 100 days. The facilities are first class, each of the apartment blocks has a green courtyard and there is high quality green space to give the Village an open, refreshing feel. We noted, however, that one area of green space is allocated for a high rise development in legacy which will detract from the ambience of the development and restrict light for residents.
A great deal of thought has been given to legacy. The operations centre will become a school and the sports fields for athletes’ entertainment will be part of the school experience. The Polyclinic will remain as a medical facility for the new residents and the ground floor will be developed with retail facilities to create a new piece of city.
This is the first major development to comply with Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4. I wondered “what would a Code 4 development feel like?” The answer was; very little different to any other modern apartment block. The accommodation is of high quality with high levels of insulation, there are plenty of doors opening on to the balconies to provide ventilation in summer, lighting is by LEDs not bulbs but unless you are an energy geek you probably would not know the difference, neither would you know that the heating is supplied by a district heating system connected to CCHP. The only noticeable difference was the heating control system which our energy expert thought looked a little complicated, which is worrying – the systems must be useable to be effective. The future school is a great building with abundant natural light, but the transparent roof was a little noisy when the English weather did its best to disrupt our visit.
The Village has demonstrated that it is possible to live in comfortable, modern accommodation and be more sustainable. We don’t have to go back to living in caves or build houses made of straw. For London 2012 to establish this milestone for sustainable living is a major achievement to be celebrated.