Getting to the bottom of sustainability

Shaun McCarthy

July 23, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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London 2012 will be my second Olympics. I had the great honour to be part of the London 2012 observer team in Beijing and I learned a lot. They had a slightly quirky approach to sustainability which is best described by this tale.

The “Water Cube” aquatics centre was superb. It was made primarily from ‘soap bubbles’ made of ETFE which helps to adjust the temperature of the building by capturing about 20% of the solar energy passing through, at only 1% of the weight of glass. They even had a system that collected body heat from the seats to help heat the pool. It is very gratifying to think that, after years of relative inactivity, my bottom made a small contribution to the success of the Beijing Games.

On the other hand, the VIP seats in the main stadium had little personal air conditioners to cool the bottoms of esteemed guests. I find it ironic that in China of all places they collect body heat from the backsides of the masses to save enough energy to blow cool air up the delicate bottoms of the privileged few. I am sure Chairman Mao would not have approved.

No such luxury in London. The heat collection system was a nice gimmick but I doubt if it was very efficient and LOCOG has been busy reducing the levels of comfort cooling in all facilities in order to save cost and energy. I prefer this philosophy. It does not make a funny story but simply using less energy is sometimes the best way.

Well done LOCOG for getting to the bottom of this difficult issue.

Shaun McCarthy

July 2012

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