Sustainable Cities™

London: Olympic Park is recycling building materials

The Olympic Games is coming to London, United Kingdom, in 2012. The construction of the Olympic Park is built on principles of social and environmental sustainability. One of the innovative sustainable initiatives is to reuse the materials from the demolition area to build the new Olympic Park. This case describes the waste management ideas of the Olympic park.

OL London 2012
OL London 2012

The 2012 Olympic Park will be built in one of London's most underdeveloped areas, Lower Lea Valley. Building the Olympic Park will hopefully trigger a positive development in the area providing new transport facilities, employment, housing, a new big green park and cultural and sport facilities of international standard. Much of the land of Lower Lea Valley is taken up with derelict industrial land and poor housing, often divided by underused waterways, pylons, roads, the London Underground and heavy rail lines. The Olympic Park is using the local building materials coming from the demolishment and cleaning of this area.

Pre-demolition surveys take place, identifying the types and volumes of materials. From these surveys, detailed Site Waste Management Plans are developed. This includes specific targets for the reuse and recycling of materials, as well as plans for the effective management of any contaminated waste. An example of the reuse of materials in the Olympic Park development is the reuse of timber. Timber arising from any trees which need to be removed is reused. In addition, there are 700 to 1000T of York Stone and 300T of granite sets available for reclamation on the site, used for paving and features. Bricks from old sport venues placed in the area are also being reused in building new facilities.

 London Olympic Park Model 13 March 2008 by Phillie Casablanca, Flickr, Creative Commons

By using the materials present already at the site the need for transport of building materials is reduced drastically. At least 90 per cent, by weight, of the material from demolition works will be reused or recycled. 50% of materials, by weight, will be transported to and from the Olympic Park by water or rail during construction. The Olympic Park and venues are designed wherever possible for post-Games use.To minimise any waste during the conversion from Games to the legacy phase, all temporary venues and structures will be designed with reuse and recycling in mind. 


"The concept of 'waste' should be substituted by the concept of 'resource'. To dump it is a waste of money and a failure to design sustainable products and processes (Girardet 2004:195). 

The increased focus on sustainability in megaevents like the Olympic Games in London in 2012 has led to a global demand for knowledge and principles for sustainable events. Launched in June 2012, is a new ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 20121, which remedy and specifies requirements for an event sustainability management system for any type of event or event-related activity that works with sustainability. ISO 20121 was developed by co-opted experts from 30 countries, provides a common international language for sustainability in the event industry. The new ISO will help to create sustainable improvements in for example the selection of venues, transportation, recycling, food strategy, and creating skills, employment and business development

Read more:
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Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014