'Green’ Olympics strategy disappoints green lobby

The Olympic Delivery Authority has set out plans for what it claims will be the "greenest games in modern times". But environmental groups say some of its targets are too weak, and the authority faces a battle to establish its green credentials.

The ODA is charged with delivering the venues, facilities, infrastructure and transport for the 2012 games. Its sustainability strategy, released in January, sets out its environmental, social and biodiversity targets for the first time since it won the bid in July 2006.1The Olympic body claims that the strategy is "unprecedented" for a project of this kind. Its key environmental promises are:

  • Energy: Carbon emissions associated with the Olympic park and venues will be cut by 50%. However, this is against a business-as-usual scenario based on the 2005 building regulations and no further low- or zero-carbon technologies.

    The target will be achieved by minimising the energy demand of the Olympic park venues and village, supplying energy through low-carbon technologies and developing new renewable energy sources.

    Some of the renewable energy ideas have been floated already: a 120-metre wind turbine in the park and biofuel boilers burning waste wood from London’s trees. There are also promises to use panels on some buildings, ground source heat pumps and small hydro systems.

    The wind turbine is expected to provide just 6% of the site’s power requirements. The major source will be a central gas-fired combined cooling, heat and power plant which is expected to be "up to 90% efficient".

    To minimise the demand for energy, all permanent structures will be 15% more efficient than required by the 2006 building regulations, while the Olympic village is to be 25% more efficient.

    The ODA’s reputation has already been damaged by the disclosure last autumn that the Stratford City development, which will include the Olympic athletes’ village, will source just 2% of its energy from renewable sources - well short of the 20% target for the Olympic park (ENDS Report 382, pp 15-16 ).

    Green Party London Assembly member Darren Johnson was disappointed even with the 20% target. He noted that plans for Olympic energy self-sufficiency had been scaled back and now fall well short of the mayor’s sustainable construction standards, particularly the plan to make all new homes carbon neutral by 2016 (ENDS Report 383, p 4 ).

  • Waste: 90% of demolition material generated at the Olympic park is to be reused or recycled, and at least 20% recycled materials will be used in permanent venues, the strategy promises.

    This is well above a target set by the Sustainability Forum for the construction industry to cut waste going to landfill by 50% by 2012 (ENDS Report 383, p 17 ). However, construction firm Wates Group has committed to phasing out the landfill of all non-hazardous waste by 2011 (ENDS Report 379, pp 30-33 ).

  • Materials: The ODA promises to embrace responsible sourcing and suppliers are to be asked to demonstrate this through environmental management schemes.

    On timber, the ODA "expects all timber to come from known legal sources" and promises to "seek to maximise timber from sustainable sources", with appropriate supporting evidence from the government’s Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET).

    Greenpeace said the policy was a "hammer blow" to forests. The CPET has been criticised by environmental groups for its desk-based assessment of certification schemes (ENDS Report 384, pp 21-22 ). WWF wants to see CPET independently audited (see p 19 )

  • Water: The strategy sets a target for 40% reduction in demand for drinking water on current industry standards for non-residential buildings. It is not clear what this baseline will be, but its target for a 20% reduction in demand for residential development will be relative to average London consumption - about 160 litres per person per day.

    Low flush toilets, low flow taps and showers, and monitoring and leak detection to prevent leaks will be expected to achieve this. Water reuse, such as rainwater capture and greywater recycling, may be included in permanent facilities "where this is feasible and cost effective".

    However, as Mr Johnson has pointed out, the target of around 130l/person/day is almost double the London Plan target of just 70l/person/day.

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