The Best Building on the Park?

07/08/2012 12:00 | Updated 07 October 2012

When the competition is over, the judges' scores are counted and the chairperson of the judging panel adjudicates the result, which buildings will get the medals?

The obvious contender for Gold would be the wonderful Velodrome. For me this is the Jessica Ennis of buildings, the "Face of the Games". I have waxed lyrical about this building before; 30% better energy efficiency (double the target of 15%), half the weight of materials compared to the Beijing Velodrome, sustainable timber cladding etc. However I would like to make the case for two far less glamorous buildings; the Energy Centre and the building housing the membrane bio-reactor at Old Ford.

The ODA has delivered exemplary low carbon infrastructure with 47% lower carbon compared to a "business as usual" case, assuming that the site was constructed in accordance with current regulations. All of the permanent venues were specified to deliver 15% greater energy efficiency and the wonderful Velodrome achieved 30%. However, the jewels in the low carbon crown are not the iconic buildings you see on TV but the un-glamorous energy centre and the even less glamorous building housing a membrane bio-reactor. The energy centre houses a gas engine which generates electricity from natural gas. The waste heat from the engine is used to supply a district heating system which heats the buildings on the park cools some of them using absorption cooling technology. The energy centre is currently running at 20% of its capacity. Additional bays are available for more engines in the future and there are more pipes under the ground to support new development for decades after the Games. This is one of two energy centres in the area; the second at theWestfieldshopping centre is linked to the district heating system.

Not a lot of people know that the Olympic Park is built over one ofLondon's main Victorian sewers. Even fewer people know that Thames Water installed theUK's first commercial scale membrane bio-reactor in support of the ODA's excellent achievement in reducing potable water. To put it simply, this machine turns poo in to fresh water. The water is used to feed the district heating system which provides heating and hot water to the buildings. It is also used to irrigate the wonderful green spaces and natural habitats in the park. No hosepipe ban here.

So, who gets the medals? The energy centre is great and has the spare capacity to deliver highly efficient energy solutions to the people ofEast Londonfor generations to come. However, it still burns fossil fuel and efforts to deliver an "energy from waste" solution to provide biogas have so far come to nothing. The plant at Old Ford, built by Thames Water is the first commercial plant of its kind in theUK, demonstrating innovation and willingness to take a commercial risk.

So; the gold medal goes to Old Ford, silver to the Energy Centre. Unlike Jessica's wonderful feat on Saturday night, my "Face of the Games" the Velodrome gets a creditable bronze.