London won the 2012 Games, in part, due to its commitment to making them an environmentally sustainable event. So how does the ODA plan to deliver its promise? Vikki Miller put the question to the head of sustainability Paula Hirst

Most people acknowledge London’s plans for sustainability and legacy issues gave it that extra sparkle to win the bid for the 2012 Games. That’s why the ODA has got to work setting out its plans for these two crucial issues. Already there are plans to build a 130m wind turbine on the 2012 site to power the equivalent of 1200 homes a year. Here, Paula Hirst, acting head of sustainable development at the ODA, talks about the overall strategy.

Building: How do you expect contractors to help to achieve a sustainable Games?

Hirst: “We’ll be looking for a level of knowledge and skills from people we work with who can deliver against our objectives. We want partners and contractors to bring ideas and innovation.”

In August, the ODA unveiled 12 draft sustainability objectives (see “Green agenda”, opposite) that contractors must be comply with in the delivery of the Olympic venues. Several of the objectives will impact on the construction industry, especially those focusing on energy, waste and materials.

What is the ODA’s energy policy?

Hirst: “There will be renewables on site. We’re looking at which technologies will provide the optimum mix. We’re looking at wind power, ground source heating, cooling through water, PV panels etc. We need it to be practical and deliverable.”

The ODA has also committed itself to providing a percentage of the energy needed for the Olympic Park from combined cooling heat and power CCHP infrastructure.

No specific targets have been set as to what amount of energy will come from renewables or CCHP. But the ODA has said buildings will be sticking to the Part L Building Regulations. It also wants to reduce energy demand through energy efficient architecture.

Furthermore, there’s talk of BRE establishing a BREEAM standard specifically for the Olympic venues, which will push energy performance standards higher.

How will the ODA minimise waste?

Hirst says the policy on waste can be summed up with the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. She is especially keen to minimise the amount of waste going to landfill. The ODA will also challenge venue designers to use reusable structures and recyclable materials for any structures not required for the legacy facilities.

Once the CLM consortium has settled into its role, it will deliver against a site-wide management plan for waste and materials together with the ODA, which contractors will be expected to work within. This will focus on storage, supply and demand for materials across the site and will enable reuse of secondary materials in the park and venues.

There’s also going to be a use of materials policy that will provide for a standard specification for all designers and contractors to the ODA. And lastly, a significant amount of materials should be carried by rail and water as opposed to road.

How will the ODA ensure product procurement is sustainable?

Hirst: “In all our tenders we ask the bidders to prove their experience and capability in the sustainability areas. Then we ask how they are going to meet our objectives. We’ve been applauded for our non-prescriptive attitude and we want to procure as sustainably as possible.”

So far, there is no set objective for procurement. Hirst says this is because it cuts across all the departments at the ODA and has been included in the overall sustainability policy.

Which organisations will the ODA be working with on its sustainability polices?

Hirst: “Our sustainability policy doesn’t run in isolation. It’s crucial that we work with all the other agencies involved.”

These include: London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games , London Development Agency, GLA, Government, Westfield (Stratford City developer), the Environment Agency, British Waterways, Natural England to name but a few.

What is the ‘One Planet Living’ policy?

The sustainability parts of the ODA’s documents are based on the WWF and consultant BioRegional’s ‘One Planet Living’ concept, which includes working towards zero carbon and waste.

Hirst: “We meet with WWF and Bioregional on a monthly basis. We have an agreement for collaborative working.”

Who checks the ODA is meeting its sustainability targets?

This role falls to the London Sustainable Development Commission. The LSDC is recruiting a chair, who will work two days a week. This “independent assurance role” is also currently being developed by a PWC Forum for the Future.

What’s next?

The ODA will publish a strategy in January 2007, which will flesh out the 12 objectives. It will include targets, monitoring arrangements and performance indicators. Shortly after, an overarching sustainability plan will set out the roles of the multitudes of agencies involved.

Paula Hirst: past & present

Hirst leads the sustainable development team but there is a process in place to find a permanent head.

Prior to the ODA, she had been a member of the interim team at the LDA since 2005, when London won the bid. Before that, she headed up the London mayor’s sustainable development unit for two years.

The sustainability team at the ODA will consist of three members of staff and will work closely with the sustainability people at the CLM consortium.

The green agenda

The 12 draft sustainability principles are:

Energy – maximise the opportunities for carbon efficiency.

Waste – maximise opportunities to design out waste and provide waste infrastructure.

Materials – Use environmentally and socially responsible materials.

Biodiversity and ecology – protect and enhance the wildlife of the Lower Lea Valley.

Land, water, noise, air – maximise positive impacts on land, water, noise and air quality.

Global, local and internal environments – design and build in a sensitive manner.

Culture and heritage – preserve and improve the heritage of the Lower Lea Valley.

Transport and mobility – create accessible, pedestrian-friendly Olympic park and venues.

Housing and amenity – create safe, mixed-use public space, housing and facilities.

Education and employment – provide employment locally, regionally and nationally.

Health – provide health, recreation, sporting and cultural facilities.

Inclusion – involve, communicate and consult with stakeholdersand communities.