While all eyes have been focused on the action in the pool, behind the scenes the stunning Olympic aquatic sports venue is also leading the way in environmentally friendly cooling systems. However other venues cling to climate-harmful systems and fail to medal, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
Image: Aquatics Centre by Steve Bates copyright ODA London 2012
Refrigeration and air-conditioning are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, partly through the use of synthetic refrigerant chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which are often thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Globally, HFCs account for about one per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and this could rise to nearly 20 per cent by the middle of the century unless urgent action is taken.
Designed by Zaha Hadid, the Aquatic Centre in London uses ammonia, one of a number of ‘natural’ refrigerants that have either no or low global warming potential. This not only eliminates the need for HFCs, but also leads to greatly improved energy efficiency. In addition to the Aquatics Centre, the Olympic Energy Centre also uses ammonia refrigerants.
Alasdair Cameron, global environment campaigner with the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), said: “It is fantastic to see the London Olympics waking up to the need to use environmentally friendly refrigerants as a means of reducing its carbon footprint, but this is just the start. The next step will be to build on this experience so that future events such as the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow can be completely HFC-free.”
However, despite the positive signals being sent by the use of natural refrigerants in the Aquatics and Energy centres, other venues have failed to rise to the challenge, says the UK-based non-governmental environmental campaigning organisation, with the Olympic Stadium and media centres relying on HFC-based equipment.