Before the structures for the London 2012 Olympic games were built, Olympic Park had a deep historical timeline. Plastic was invented here. The UK’s first petrol factory was built. During the excavation for the Olympic buildings the Roman road between London and Colchester was uncovered. Four Skeletons were discovered in a cemetery within an Iron Age settlement! If the Aquatics Centre was to become a new and lasting UK landmark, it was going to need a structure built of timeless beauty and amazement. Enter internationally acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid.
The Aquatics Centre comprises a permanent central structure with two temporary seating ‘wings’ during the Games. These combine to give it a capacity of 17,500 during the Games. Considered the gateway to the Olympic Park, the Aquatic Center was designed with an iconic wave-like roof that extends 160 meters and is 80 meters wide (that is 525 / 262.5 feet, respectively, for all us silly Americans). The venue’s roof proved to be one of the most complex engineering challenges of the Olympic Park build. Its skeletal structure rests on just two concrete supports at the northern end of the building and a supporting ‘wall’ at its southern end. This steel framework was initially constructed on temporary supports, before the entire 3,000 ton structure (half of which was recycled) was lifed up 4 feet in a single movement and successfully placed back down on to its permenent concrete supports.
REDUCING THE AQUATICS CENTRE’S WATER CONSUMPTION
How do you reduce water consumption at an aquatics centre? It is an unavoidably water-intensive building, not only because of the water in the pools, but also because of the high proportion of pool users who shower on site. The Aquatics Centre on the Park houses a 50-meter competition pool, a 25-meter competition diving pool, and a 50-meter warm-up pool. These all require regular top up from evaporation losses and use filters that need to be thoroughly cleaned with backwash water. Swimming pool systems usually pump backwash water into the local wastewater networks because the water quality is no longer suitable for use in the pool. The London Aquatics Centre Design team looked into recycling the swimming pool backwash water to flush WCs (toilets) and urinals. This is effectively ‘greywater’ recycling. Using reclaimed backwash water was considered feasible because of the unique and reliable source (compared to unpredictable rainwater) and ample quantity available to meet the demand for WCs and urinals. Through the incorporation of low flow showers, wash hand basin taps, and low flush WC’s, the Centre is expected to acheive a potable water saving of 32% over the building’s 25-year lifespan(2012-2037).
AFTER THE GAMES
The Aquatics Centre will be transformed into a facility for the local community, clubs and schools, as well as elite swimmers, attracting an anticipated 800,000 visitors a year. All the pools have moveable booms and floors to create different depths and pool sizes, so it can be used by swimmers of all abilities and experience. After the Games, the two temporary wings will be removed thus reducing its capacity to 2,500 – although it will be possible to increase the venue capacity for major competitions. The venue will also feature a creche, family-friendly changing facilities and a cafe, alongside a new public plaza in front of the building.