Is this the future of the Olympic Village?
Sunday, 02 December 2012
It is already well beyond doubt that London 2012 staged the most sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games in history. The key was putting sustainability at the heart of the Games from the very outset, from the construction of venues to the recycling of composite materials across the Olympic Park in Stratford.
They were helped along the way by their numerous sponsors and partners, who all signed up to the London 2012 sustainability guidelines and worked closely with the Organising Committee to ensure that everything was done to avoid harming the environment.
However, one could wonder if London 2012 might have been even more sustainable had Dow Chemical Company been involved right from the very start back when the city was awarded the Olympic and Paralympic Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Singapore on July 6, 2005.
After all, it was some five years after London 2012 were awarded the Games, in July 2010, that Dow was officially unveiled as the latest member of The Olympic Partners (TOP) Programme.
The agreement made Dow an official Worldwide Olympic Partner and the official Chemistry Company for the Olympic Movement through to 2020.
In addition, it made Dow a partner the IOC and the National Olympic Committees around the world.
"We are delighted to welcome Dow to the TOP Programme," said IOC President Jacques Rogge.
"As a global leader in the chemical industry and an innovator in sustainability, Dow will not only provide critical financial support to the Olympic Movement, but also bring industry-leading expertise and innovation to the Games themselves.
"Dow will be an important partner in making our vision for sustainability a reality."
Rogge clearly knew the huge benefits of having Dow on board and having one of the world's leading chemical companies involved in London 2012, Sochi 2014, Rio 2016, Pyeongchang 2018 and the 2020 Games.
This is because Dow is essentially a problem solver, particularly in the area of sustainability.
Despite having less than two years to help London 2012 prepare for the Games, we were given a clear demonstration of exactly what Dow can do in the form of the Olympic Stadium wrap.
Perhaps unknown to the millions who saw it in person and the billions around the world who saw in on television; the wrap was actually an innovative sustainability solution.
The wrap panels were made of a lightweight polyester fabric with a polyolefin elastomer-based coating, a material which allows the wrap to meet London 2012's stringent sustainability requirements while ensuring the appropriate fire protection and printability needed for stadium/stage venues. Meanwhile the compound that coats the polyester fabric is based on the latest generation Dow elastomers. The coating technology contains highly efficient flame retardants and high performance additive technologies such as colorants, processing aids and stabilisers.
The Dow Elastomer technology, made it possible for the first time to achieve a unique combination of durability, flexibility and fire performance, while meeting also all the other performance requirements like printability, mechanical properties and abrasion resistance. To date these combinations of requirements had only been achieved with established solutions from the market (polyvinylchloride, fluoropolymers and silicones) and not to our knowledge with a polyolefin based product.
The panels were printed with UV-curable inks, a product that meets the extremely high Nordic Ecolabel environmental and climate requirements and limits emissions during the printing process by eliminating volatile organic compounds (VOC). In addition, Dow brought the best collaborators to the table, co- creating the textile wrap solution across the supply chain.
Dow is committed to repurposing or recycling the wrap, and has been working with leading UK building and development charity Article 25 and recycling company Axion Recycling to repurpose the entire stadium wrap. The textile wrap panels are slated for recycling and reuse projects in the UK, and shelter solutions for at-risk children in Uganda and Rio.
The wrap became one of the great centrepieces of London 2012, giving the Olympic Stadium instantaneous iconic status.
But if Dow could do this in just two years, in their first Games, what will they be able to do going forward?
Well I am perhaps one of the privileged few who has seen what might come next.
Earlier this year, I paid a visit to Midland in the American state of Michigan for a tour of Dow.
During the tour, I saw various high-tech laboratories containing ground-breaking science that I had expected to see at a leading chemical company.
What I had not expected was the InVision Zero home.
Located a short distance from Dow's headquarters, the InVision Zero home blended so comfortably into the suburban street on which it is located that I didn't realise there was anything particular special about it.
It was obviously a beautiful house, but, I thought, no different from the other beautiful houses on the road.
But as I walked up the drive and got close, I began to realise that this was in fact no ordinary house at all.
The house itself came about after Dow and Cobblestone Homes teamed up in 2011 to make net-zero energy homes in Michigan a reality.
What they created was the InVision Zero that now stood in front of me.
The home itself utilises a portfolio of energy efficient building materials and technologies designed to work together to produce enough energy to supply all of the home's electricity needs.
It is essentially an affordable, net-zero energy home that uses approximately 60 to 70 per cent less energy than a conventional home, with the balance of its energy needs supplied by renewable technologies.
This special house in Midland was simply an example of what can be done.
It is a show home demonstrating that net-zero energy homes can be made available at the current United States average new home selling price. This allows net-zero energy homes to reach new levels of attainability for mainstream home buyers.
But the goal of Dow and Cobblestone Homes was not simply to build this one fascinating home; it was actually to educate the public and homebuilders on the possibilities of energy efficiency in harsh northern climates.
For the year that the home was open to the public, over 5,000 people toured the home and learned about energy efficiency, net-zero energy homes and available products and technologies that make this dream a reality today.
The InVision Zero home was built using a variety of insulation and sealant materials from Dow to produce a tight, energy efficient "building envelope," or outer shell.
The technologies used are far too numerous to mention but it is perhaps worth pointing out some just to illustrate how Dow and Cobblestone Homes made the seemingly impossible appear so straightforward.
STYROFOAM SIS Brand Structural Insulated Sheathing was used over exterior walls to provide structural bracing, a continuous insulating layer and an air barrier.
STYROFOAM Brand Tongue & Groove Insulation was used under the basement slab to keep it warm and comfortable and to reduce condensation that can damage floor coverings while it was also used on the exterior above-grade walls to prevent air and water penetration.
DOW POWERHOUSE Solar Shingle System was featured to provide weather protection like asphalt shingles and harness the power of the sun to offset a portion of the home's energy usage while DOWFROST GEO 20 Heat Transfer Fluid helped to extracts heat or coolness from the earth by taking advantage of the underground temperatures.
In addition, GREAT STUFF PRO Fireblock Insulating Foam Sealant was featured because it expands when used in gaps and cracks, sealing the annular space surrounding pipes, cables and ducts so the rate and speed of flames, deadly gasses and toxic smoke from fires are minimised.
The list of revolutionary Dow technologies used for the InVision Zero home goes on and on.
But as well as educating the public and homebuilders on the possibilities of energy efficiency in harsh northern climates, perhaps this ground-breaking building could find itself becoming part of the fabric of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
And given that it is a home; could the InVision Zero actually be the future of the Olympic Village for the world's best athletes?
When you think about it carefully, the idea is not so preposterous.
In an Olympic and Paralympic construction project, that is not a huge amount of time because construction plans are in place almost a decade out. But the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games were awarded last year, while the 2020 Summer Games, which will go to either Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo, will be awarded next year. So maybe it could be in 2018 or 2020 that we will see the first InVision Zero Athletes' Village.
For now, such a scenario remains a distant possibility.
But we must remember that London 2012 has set a new standard for sustainability that every future Organising Committee will want to beat.
And what better way to set a new benchmark than with a net-zero energy Olympic Village.
Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames.biz
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