ODA'WASTING GREEN OPPORTUNITY'
When London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, the city's success was thanks largely to the emphasis on regeneration and sustainability in the proposal. We were told that the London Olympics would be the 'greenest Games ever', and would leave behind a 'lasting legacy'.
It is understandable then that green campaigners and leading figures in architecture piled on the scorn when the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) announced its sustainability targets at the end of January.
The ODA said it aims to make the Olympic Village '25 per cent more energy efficient than buildings built today' - a target the government hopes to hit for all new buildings by 2010, even aiming for 44 per cent effoiciency by 2013.
The ODA also stated that 20 per cent of the energy needed for the Games will come from on-site renewable sources - a minimum target that Mayor Ken Livingstone is aiming to deliver across London by 2010 - two years before the Games.
And the ODA has come under fire yet again this week after announcing it would not be increasing its sustainability targets - despite mounting pressure - because they are the best that can be expected with today's technology.
David Higgins, ODA chief executive, recently told London Assembly members during a plenary meeting that 'the technology in biomass or fuel cells is not there to give this level of local generation' - a claim refuted by many in the industry, not least Bill Dunster.
The ZEDfactory founder has become a leading figure in low-carbon developments and low-environmental-impact buildings, and believes that the technology is not only available but would be easy to employ on a development the size of the Olympic Park.
'To claim that this will be the greenest and most sustainable games possible should be laughed at, ' Dunster says. 'It seems to me that the Olympics offers a brilliant opportunity, but is being met with a lack of motivation from those leading it.
'Biomass plants are working, they are reliable and they are being used all over the UK. The size of the Olympic site will not cause any problems, in fact, it will bring opportunities - all it needs is an energy masterplan.'
Although Dunster disagrees in principle with London hosting the Olympics - he calls it an 'unmitigated disaster' - he does believe that it should be used as an example of best practice.
He says: 'By 2016 it will be illegal to build a house in the UK that is not zero carbon. The Olympics should be showing what is possible. It should expose London to zero carbon generation.'
For Dunster, however, the lack of motivation toward zero-carbon developments is a problem that is rife throughout all projects.
'It's not just about zero carbon, it's about a change of aesthetic - it stimulates a rethink, which is viewed as very threatening to the establishment. It's as if you can come up with any deconstructive Zaha building, but you can't do anything that threatens the people who run it.'
According to the Green Party, one reason behind the ODA's targets could be cost.
The price of the Olympics is yet to be determined, and the government is keen to nail down the budget, to avoid any extra costs further down the line and avoid the risk of increasing public dissatisfaction.
Jenny Jones, London Assembly Green Party member, believes that by sacrificing the Games' green credentials to keep the costs down, the ODA is short-changing the public out of a 'real lasting legacy'.
Jones said: 'You can't call the ODA's policies exemplary when they are only hitting targets for 2010. It's really depressing. It may think it would be too expensive to increase the sustainability targets, as it is trying to keep the cost of the Games down, but that's not acceptable. That's like saying we're having a cutprice legacy. Surely it's better to spend more money and leave a truly lasting legacy?'
The ODA has issued a statement following Higgins' comment, which claims that the 20 per cent target for renewable energy was only the minimum.
But the body still believes that due to the size of the site, and the subsequent costs it would incur, 20 per cent remains the most realistic target.
The ODA said: 'We have committed to at least 20 per cent of energy being renewable.
However, we are also futureproofing the development and allowing adaptation to alternative fuel sources over time.
'Obviously, as you would expect for a project of this size and scale, we have considered a wide range of technologies to enable us to meet this commitment, taking into account issues such as cost, technological viability, supplier capacity and physical site constraints. We are currently procuring utilities providers and are awaiting proposals on how they will enable us to meet or exceed this commitment.'
However, Bill Dunster says he will not hold his breath waiting for the call. 'But, ' he says, 'they know where we are if they want to speak to us.'