UK Green Building Council

Delivering a Sustainable Athletes' Village

The Building Centre
26 Store Street, London, WC1E 7BT

Resources and Key Learnings from UK-GBC's London 2012 Sustainability Lessons Learned Series

This Breakfast Session provided a holistic perspective on creating a sustainable residential development from the entire project team - from client to architect to supplier. The project team responsible for delivering the Olympic Athletes' Village made up the high-profile panel, who debated the successes and challenges of delivering a sustainable venue for the London 2012 Olympic Park.

Speakers included: 

  • Andrew Taylor - Director, Patel Taylor Architects
  • Steve King - Development Director, Lend Lease
  • Dave Beecroft - Commercial Director, Philips
  • Andrew Kinsey - Head of Sustainability - Construction, Mace
  • Miles Keeping - Partner, Drivers Jonas Deloitte (chair)

Highlights Video

UK-GBC Members can click here to view the full event video (1.5 hours)

Key Messages

The Architect

 Professor Andrew Taylor set the scene of the vision for the Athletes’ Village as a ‘piece of London’. He highlighted the challenges of needing to design a complex that met the specific needs of the Olympics in the very short term, without comprising the lasting legacy of the village as a new London Quarter – a place for people to live and visit. The 18th Century was an inspiration for the architecture as a ‘timeless model for a traditional sustainable place’ and its connections and flexible activities, urban blocking, setting of parks and squares, streetscapes and repetition and modularisation. 20th Century London was the inspiration for crafted materials.

Main lesson learned: The tight timeline for the project was a challenge and a benefit. Projects that ‘hang around the office’ can actually get ‘sloppy’ and that the pressure of this project brought out ‘incredible quality’.

The Project Manager

Steve King described the Athletes’ Village as having a ‘pesky short term tenant’ in the form of the Olympic athletes, and emphasised once again the importance of the legacy of the Village. The major successes of the project were the BREEAM Excellent achievement for the academy and Very Good for the retail element, as well as zero fatalities, despite 26 million man-hours taking place on site. King described how the team painstakingly looked for ways to make efficiencies in construction, including thinning partition walls to maximise space and getting plasterboard cut to size off-site, minimising waste. The project looked to the future from the conception stages and exceeded both 2006 and 2010 building regulations.

Main lesson learned: Agree the apartment sizes early on. The project team and contractors were constantly innovating the logistics of the project throughout to make processes speedier and more efficient – King would have liked more time to test these innovations. “Not to build at all may be more truly sustainable than even the most sustainable forms of construction” – the truly sustainable elements of the project may have been the 2,000,000 sq metres of flooring that weren’t laid and the 2,500,000 sq foot of surface that wasn’t painted due to efficiencies made. Try to avoid abortive work - there were a number of cases where the team were let down from design to supply – elements were specified or installed incorrectly, some products were not certified correctly and these areas needed to be redone.

The Supplier

Dave Beecroft outlined Philips’ involvement in supplying lighting for the Athletes’ Village. He identified the key challenge as having to work with a number of different specifiers and partners to design an efficient and cutting edge lighting system several years ahead of construction and installation.

Main lesson learned: Suppliers and manufacturers should be involved in the very early planning stages of similar construction projects so that they can offer advice and feed into design with knowledge of technology available in the future. Other companies should open up and work more collaboratively with competitors for BIM to work.

The Contractor

Andrew Kinsey outlined the key measurable for the build as the Code for Sustainable Homes. He highlighted the successes as diverting waste from landfill, minimising waste, utilising recycled content, sourcing responsibly, sustainable design, reducing carbon emissions in transport and operations and being recognised as a Considerate Contractor with three gold awards. Kinsey highlighted the main challenge as having to deliver a project with constantly moving goalposts, the huge number of people on site and the fact that they did not all have experience in delivering sustainable codes to MACE standards.

Main lesson learned: Communication is key to getting all operatives on board with sustainability. Incentives are useful. Make sustainability visible and engaging and articulate the value wherever possible so it drills down to every decision making process. More time would have helped to take sustainability further on the scheme. Next time design would be more modular – less energy input and more efficient logistics.


Series Partner:      

Series Sponsor:



Hosted by:


Campaign for a sustainable built environment
Site by Torchbox