Psycho Chiller

Shaun McCarthy

May 29, 2009   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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It is good to see that the ODA have risen to our challenge to review their chilling options for the Aquatic Centre. It was simply not acceptable to assume that HFC refrigerants with 2,000 times the global warming impact of CO2 could be used in the most iconic building in the “most sustainable Games ever”. There is no decision yet but it is good to see that they are examining the options.

We have seen the case for chilling in the velodrome and we accept that there is a strong case for HFCs here. The building has many sustainable features including low embodied impacts and mostly natural cooling. The cooling load is very small compared to other venues.

But what about the other venues? The ODA has fantastic process for managing their objectives but there is no policy for refrigerants despite our recommendation that there should be in our report of November 2007. In this case designers will revert to type and design things the way they always have done.

We think it is time for the ODA to declare a “chiller amnesty” with their designers to establish exactly what is planned. It should be possible to look at these on a case-by-case basis but time is running out, this needs to be done very soon.

3 Responses to Psycho Chiller

  1. Avinash.P.B says:

    Chiller Amnesty ?…Loved this one.

  2. KIrsten Henson says:

    Yes, a great result indeed. When by the design teams own calculations the replacement of the chillers at a cost of £1million will have a “negligible” impact on the buildings life time emissions. The cooling load represents less than 0.5% of the total energy consumption of the building.

    £1million to save the carbon equivalent of an average UK family household doesn’t seem like a use of public money worth shouting about.

    As with all decisions on sustainability we have to seek those opportunities which deliver real value for money rather than throwing hard earned cash at appeasing a politcal agenda.

    • shaunmccarthy says:

      Kirsten’s post gives us the opportunity to reflect on the decision made by the Olympic Board chaired by Mayor Boris Johnson in April 2009.

      In our first Annual Review in 2007 we identified a flaw in the ODA sustainability strategy and recommended that they develop a policy for environmentally sensitive materials such as refrigerants in cooling systems. This recommendation was accepted but the ODA failed to act on it in time for design contracts to be let. Had they done, so much of the cost of re-design could have been avoided.

      When the issue of the cooling system in the Aquatic Centre was discussed at Olympic Board, the ODA offered the case presented by Kirsten – that this was a very expensive way to mitigate a small amount of greenhouse gas. We do not deny this, but we encouraged the Olympic Board to consider the wider consequences. London 2012 promised to set new standards of sustainability. Major corporations such as Sainsbury’s and Coca Cola are investing heavily to remove HFCs. There is general acknowledgement that HFCs are outdated technology and they are already being phased out from common uses such as domestic refrigeration and car air conditioning systems. We advised the Olympic Board that London 2012 would be failing in this objective if this situation was not corrected. Having set such high ambitions, we believed that the ODA and other delivery bodies must set an example for others to follow.

      The Olympic Board accepted our advice and instructed the ODA to replace the cooling medium and to find savings from the project to offset any additional cost. The net cost to the public purse was zero.