A blueprint for carbon collaboration

What London 2012 can teach the COP 21 about collaborative carbon reduction 

Dorte-Rich Jorgenson

The world can explore as many technical solutions as it likes to solve climate change, but to be effective, we also need to create a blueprint for collaboration to sit alongside collective carbon reduction targets. 

Collaboration will – no doubt – be on an agenda during the Paris Climate Change conference, where 193 UN member states will set out to try to agree an historic climate deal with the aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and addressing the steady and alarming rise in the average global temperature to keep it below 2 °C.  

Technical expertise driven by the right behaviours can affect positive, long-term change.

The 2012 Olympic Games in London showed that it is possible for thousands of engineering and construction professionals from a wide demographic group to work together to achieve collective project targets with sustainability at the very heart of delivery. 

The blueprint of how London 2012 delivered a sustainable Games, a legacy of infrastructure and an inspiration for change, which demonstrates carbon reduction, was the essence of a presentation I recently gave at the Global Automated Buildings Summit 2015 in Berlin. 

This blueprint was:

  • A sense of urgency and profile for delivering an Olympic Games 
  • The aspirations of the Olympic Truce 
  • An ambitious London 2012 bid to the IOC of the ‘greenest games to date’
  • A visionary client, the London 2012 Olympic Development Authority, whom: 
  • Set and enforced clear sustainability targets 
  • Provided guidance documents, support and compliance reviews to create a coherent interpretation and implementation of sustainability across multiple stakeholders
  • Ensured any procurement decisions were evaluated against a balanced scorecard that considered the traditional value for money, fit for purpose and programme alongside sustainable development
  • Was under the pressures of constant public scrutiny
  • An effective working culture

Each of the stakeholders involved in delivering the Games embedded sustainability specialists, like myself, within the programmes wider design teams, working collaboratively and as ‘one team’ to achieve the Games’ sustainability targets. 

Throughout our preparation for the Games, there was an on-going disruption of the status quo with a development agenda running alongside the core delivery of projects. We were able to actually try out innovative solutions for carbon reduction as we thought of them, with in-situ demonstration by providers to multiple stakeholders to enable effective implementation of our ideas. 

This collaborative way of working had huge results in terms of carbon and sustainability:

  • Reused 98% of demolition materials from site
  • Low carbon concrete, using secondary aggregate as china clay stent and glass sand with cement replacement as pulverized fly ash
  • Replacing PVC drainage and utility pipes with High Density Polyethylene saved 560 Tonnes CO2
  • A waste plastic alternative to replace gravel for drainage
  • Designing for legacy after the game, as feasible. 
  • Sustainable temporary solutions for games usage: 
  • Temporary highways pavement designed for a shorter design life and so saved materials
  • Temporary bridges made from recyclable components and structures. The bridges were installed so they could be easily dismantling and reused after the games. 
  • Replacing granite and concrete kerbs with environmentally friendly alternatives resulted in 90% carbon reduction
  • More than 50% of materials were transported to site by sustainable transport, like rail or  water, against the 50% ODA target 
  • The Structures, Bridges and Highways team, achieved 46% recycled materials by value against the 20% ODA target
  • 17 projects on the Olympic Park had an average in CEEQUAL score of 93.7%
  • 4 out of 6 Atkins projects scored above the average 93.7% with 2 highest score to date of 98.3%. 

The sustainability blueprint of London 2012 was a game changer that raised the bar and left an inspiring legacy that is now exported widely around the world. It also gave our own team a deeper appreciation for sustainability and a firm belief that it can be achieved in practice.  

My hope for COP21 is that our leaders arrive at both great technical solutions and appreciates the importance of including how to influence people, effectively engage them and enable them to work in collaboration as a collective force for climate change.  

Dr Dorte Rich Jørgensen is principle sustainability engineer at Atkins

If you would like to contact Antony Oliver about this, or any other story, please email antony.oliver@infrastructure-intelligence.com.