Despite its official opening against a thick backdrop of smog several weeks ago, the Beijing Olympic Village has become iconic of the city's efforts to embody a "Green Olympics". With features such as a 6,000 sq. m. rooftop solar heating system designed to provide hot bath water for the 17,200 competing athletes, as well as a "near-zero energy" welcome center that takes advantage of both solar and geothermal power, the Village makes the most of the latest innovations in sustainable architecture, energy, and landscaping.
Receiving glowing reviews all-around, could the Beijing Olympic Village be an indicator of a new category of Olympic competition? Could a race not for Gold medals, but for greener, more sustainable development within host-cities be afoot?
The buzz of enthusiasm centered on the Olympic Village culminated in the green building industry's own variety of Gold medal- the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Award- which was presented to the Village's head, Chen Zhili, last Wednesday. This is the first residential building in Beijing to win a LEED Gold; further increasing the prestige of the Village which is slated to be transformed into luxury apartments after the games. Perhaps hoping to best Beijing's work towards going green for the Olympics, plans are already being set into motion for the Winter 2010 games in Vancouver, B.C., and the Summer 2012 games in London.
In Vancouver, two Olympic villages will be built in compliance with LEED gold (and according to planners, hopefully platinum) standards. Afterwards both sites will be developed as "model sustainable communities"—this time with the focus shifting more toward reasonably priced housing. Of the 1,100 residential units, 250 will be slated as "affordable housing" and 110 more will be deemed "modest market" housing.
While fewer concrete decisions have been made about the next summer games in London, there is a push by groups such as Carfree UK to keep the Olympic Village a car-free zone after the games. With housing, shops, and other attractions located within distances easily managed on foot or by bike, London's Olympic Village is expected to play a role in larger revitalization plans for the Stratford City area. The 3,300 new homes anticipated to follow the 2012 games will also include a mix of affordable sale and rental housing, all with green features.
If these developments are any indication, green building enthusiasts may have as much to look forward to in future Olympic Games as sports fans as Beijing raises the bar for eco-friendly Olympic architecture.
by Juliana Sloane
A friend of Sadie's, Juliana Sloane is a freelance writer with an MA in Gender Studies from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. With varied interests ranging from gender in the post-state socialist context to community media to natural foods and sustainability issues, Sloane has has found herself in a variety of occupations. Previous incarnations have included development assistant and host of weekend programming with NPR affiliate 88.5 WFDD in North Carolina and assistant to the Executive Director of San Francisco's Institute For Unpopular Culture. She has recently moved back to North Carolina from Hungary and spends her time working at a local natural foods co-op and pining for good espresso.
Keywords:: Juliana Sloane going green Olympics Beijing Olympic village eco-friendly Olympics