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The Olympic Park shows how green targets can foster design innovation

From the sustainability editor: On the eve of the 2012 Games, Footprint features one of the most innovative and least visible projects in the Olympic Park

Lyall Bills & Young’s Old Ford Water Recycling Station cleanses black water from the Northern Outfall Sewer for non-potable uses in the park. This is a UK first for this technology on this scale and is a response to the ODA’s stringent water reduction target of 40 per cent. Tedious as it may sound, measurable targets do foster innovation. The utility’s sensitive architectural design also raises the bar for infrastructure buildings in natural settings. Both the disaggregated building form and its materials respond to its woodland location.

Also in the news this month is the planning submission in Wandsworth for Kieran Timberlake’s new US Embassy, which architect Stephen Kieran describes as ‘a diplomat for sustainability’. The scheme is notable for an approach familiar to Footprint readers: integrated design. As with Hopkins’ Velodrome, an interdisciplinary team has worked together from the outset and early contractor engagement should enable innovation in the supply chain. Many sustainable features, from an outer envelope of ETFE panels incorporating thin-film PVs, to combined heat and power and a ‘cooling’ pond for heat ejection contribute to attaining the BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ and LEED ‘Platinum’ to which the embassy aspires. 

The UK economy was voted the most energy-efficient in a recent American survey. But where are we really? The road towards the Green Deal is bumpy, as Parity Projects’ Russell Smith outlines this month; the definition of zero-carbon homes remains elusive; and Display Energy Certificates have yet to be rolled out for non-domestic buildings. On the other hand, organisations previously at the fringe, such as the Sustainable Building Association and the Passivhaus Trust, are gaining ground. The AECB opened its conference to non-members for the first time in June and the Passivhaus Trust’s inaugural annual awards took place this month.

Clearly London 2012 has fostered innovation in construction. As for changing behaviour, the message of the Games will be critical. Whether you’re visiting the park or watching on the telly, keep an eye out for greenwash.

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