Earning the gold medal in energy efficiency

London is preparing for an influx of visitors as it prepares to host the 2012 Olympic Games. This influx, which will include 18,000 fans, plus athletes, coaching staff and others, is forcing London to create a city within a city as it prepares for the Games.

One of the key considerations is energy consumption efficiency. Related to this, the Olympic Development Authority set the goal of all buildings in the Olympic Park to exceed building regulations for energy efficiency by at least 15%.

Overall, the Olympic Development Authority stated several goals, including:

  • Olympic Village be 25 percent more energy-efficient than previous Olympic Villages.
  • Renewable energy provide 20 percent of the energy to Olympic Park and Village
  • Olympic Village will use 20 percent less water than previous villages

One building that experienced unique heating and cooling challenges is the Velodrome – a facility where indoor cycling will be held. These include:

  • Cyclists prefer warmer temperatures (26-28 degrees Celsius)
  • Spectators prefer cooler temperatures
  • Ground level windows and doors cannot remain open due to security concerns
  • Indoor lighting consumes electricity and emits heat

Designers developed a building that minimized energy demands, primarily through passive means. Natural ventilation is the main cooling strategy for most of the building, with active cooling systems restricted to the most used spaces, such as conference rooms.

The roof is built with a double curvature, which minimizes the volume of air that must be heated for cyclists. The ends of the roof are elevated, allowing for heat ventilation in spectator areas, as well as extra seating for spectators.

Windows and natural roof lighting are maximized, reducing the need for electric lighting. Ventilation systems are designed for short duct runs, allowing the use of low power fans. A building management system controls the mechanical and HVAC systems to ensure maximum efficiency. Variable speed inverters and low-energy light fixtures are just a few of the many energy efficient features of the Velodrome.

The results are impressive. According to the Royal Institute for British Architects, the design exceeds the 2006 Building Regulations for energy efficiency by 31 percent, far better than the Olympic Development Authority’s goal of 15 percent.

At the core of the energy effort for the 2012 Olympics is The Energy Centre, a facility located in the western part of Olympic Park. The Centre, entirely paid for with private funding, claims a commitment to renewable and energy-efficient technologies and will provide all power, heat and cooling for the Park for the games. It will also provide power for new buildings and communities expected to develop in the area after the games conclude.

The facility uses a biomass boiler that relies on woodchip as fuel to generate heat. It also uses natural gas to power a combined cooling, heat, and power plant. The biomass boiler is expected to reduce carbon emissions. Also the CCHP plant is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 1,000 tons per year.

At the same time, a nod to the past is being given. Existing mill buildings at Kings Yard, which have historical value, are being preserved. They will be renovated and reused as part of the project.

The Energy Centre is designed to allow future technologies to be used as they are developed.

As part of the energy Centre project, two six kilometer underground tunnels were constructed and 130 km of overhead wires were moved underground.

“Sustainability is at the heart of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said David Higgins, chief executive of the Olympic Development Authority. “The Energy Centre will ensure a lasting legacy of green power in the Olympic Park for generations to come.”

The Energy Centre includes a primary substation, which will handle power distribution. Construction materials from the substation came from crushed materials from buildings demolished in the construction of Olympic Park, and the substation boasts a “brown roof.” This will allow natural vegetation and animal species to take root, helping cool the building and adding to the biodiversity of Olympic Park.

However, it is not just within the Olympic Park that energy efficiency steps are being taken. A London icon is being made more efficient as the city readies itself to be the center of the world’s attention.

Tower Bridge, an iconic structure built in 1894, is being outfitted with some 2,000 high-efficiency LED lights. The lights will change color and intensity, depending on the occasion, and are expected to bath the bridge in hues of silver and gold during the 2012 Olympics.

Regardless of the colors, savings are expected to be significant. According to London Mayor Boris Johnson, the LED lights will reduce energy consumption by as much as 40 percent when compared to the current lighting, which is 25-years-old.

General Electric is teaming with the design firm Citelum, which did the lighting for the Eiffel Tower, and EDF, one of the United Kingdom’s “big 6” energy providers, for this project.

The new lighting scheme is expected to be ready by June, 2012.

While the plans are grand, it will take some time before we know if the energy efficiency goals will be met. The 2012 Olympic Games will be July 25 through August 5. The Paralympics will follow.

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