The stadium’s architect, Rod Sheard – who also designed the Olympic Stadium in Sydney – worked closely with the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) to create a venue that is as sustainable as it is stunning, and yet flexible enough to provide any number of uses once the Games are over.
“There were two fundamental principles that were always going to set this Olympic Stadium as a different sort of building to anything that had ever been done before, and that was everybody wanted the most environmentally sustainable Olympic Stadium ever built,” he says.
“Secondly, we wanted a building that was capable of being totally transformed after the Olympic Games.” Many Olympic Stadiums are converted to host alternative sports once they have staged the Games, but LOCOG were keen to provide an athletics legacy for London after the Games, with the track set to remain in place for both community and elite athletes, although the 80,000-capacity could be reduced.
“The simple idea was to have a building that could transform and that could be acceptable to athletics, so the overall concept was a building that could close down potentially to 25,000 spectators instead of 80,000 for the main Games,” adds Sheard.
“It is a building that is capable of taking on different forms,” he continues. “It is capable of being transformed to whatever we want it to be. It is obviously going to have an athletics involvement. I personally think it is going to be a brilliant site and a brilliant park for outdoor concerts, the sort of concerts that take place right now in Hyde Park or Regents Park will be perfect to be held here.
“In many ways we have always seen this building as a blank canvas. It is, in a way, a three-dimensional blank canvas. It is ready for other people to write their masterpieces and certainly Friday night was Danny Boyle's night and starting next Friday it will be a canvas for the athletes who will take part and write their own message on the building.”
As well as building a flexible stadium, LOCOG were also keen to ensure that the venue was as sustainable as possible – not only during operation, but also during construction.
“Most people when they think about a sustainable building think about the energy that a building uses, whether you have low energy lighting, whether your air conditioning systems have a low carbon footprint, whether you can generate your own electricity through photovoltaics, all of those sorts of things,” explains Sheard.
“But often a stadium is built and the energy that is used to run it as a building is never surpassed by the energy that goes into building it. So that set us a very clear objective: we had to use the least amount of energy that was humanly possible to build an 80,000-seat stadium. And that's what we did.
“We built the lightest Olympic Stadium ever, with just over 10,000 tonnes of steel, compared to perhaps four to 10 times that for a typical stadium of that size, so we used less materials, we also used materials that were recycled.”
The stadium’s recycled materials included an unused gas pipe from a North Sea oil project, while approximately 40% of the concrete used was made of recycled aggregate. LOCOG also saved energy by transporting materials to the site by boat or train.
Sheard adds: “It was through a series of programmes that we analysed the carbon footprint of the building and we are confident when we say it is the lowest carbon footprint stadium that has ever been built for an Olympic Games, or for any major stadium of that scale.”