The use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in construction is a contentious issue, magnified at global events such as the upcoming London 2012 Olympic Games. For years green campaigners have fought the AEC industry for its utilisation of the material, touting low levels of biodegradability, toxic emissions during PVC production and hormone disruption as reasons for its dismissal. As such, a policy was issued by London 2012 in 2009 to outline the parameters of vinyl use in the London 2012 Olympic Park.
Over 142,000 sq m of PVC fabric has been incorporated into the construction of the Park and external Olympic venues, making an appearance at some of the most celebrated architectural achievements, including Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre, Hopkins Architects’ award-winning Velodrome, and the Park’s centrepiece, the Populous-designed Olympics Stadium.
The 15,000 temporary seats encased within Hadid’s swooping Aquatics Centre shell are formed of PVC, with an additional 8,000 sq m of the material supplied by Serge Ferrari for the external wrap. The high-performance surface within the Veldrome integrates 2,600 sq m of Serge Ferrari-sourced PVC and the Magma Architecture-designed temporary shooting venue at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich uses 22,000 sq m of PVC membrane.
Reasons for selecting PVC vary from its durability and flexibility to its lightweight nature and the ability to print on, backlight or host light projections, but the question of sustainability lingers on. Jo Carris, a Learning Legacy Ambassador, explains: “Environmental pressure groups such as Greenpeace have been lobbying against PVC materials as part of a long running campaign to have all organchlorines phased out. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Australian organisers officially agreed to avoid the use of PVC where possible, but this stance was not subsequently adopted by authorities at the Games in Athens and Beijing.”
What separates the implementation of PVC materials into the Olympic construction this year is the complex recycling techniques planned post-Games and the strict policies outlined prior to venue design. As a result of the policy framework the materials must include at least 30% recycled content, be manufactured in accordance with the ECVM Industry Charter, meet standards for effluent discharges and vent gases, and must not contain lead, mercury or cadmium stabilisers, amongst other things. The sustainable VinylPlus initiative builds on the success of the Vinyl 2010 ten year voluntary commitment to enhance the sustainable production and use of PVC, and its profile has been heightened by the adoption of these policies by London 2012.
After the Games have come to a close, the temporary structures will be torn down and recycled in the most sustainable fashion. A system of crushing, selective dissolving, fibre separation, PVC precipitation and solvent regeneration ensures that the product is high-quality recycled PVC that can be used again in a variety of ways with minimum negative impact on the environment. This process can easily separate PVC from other materials such as natural textiles, metals and rubber, and was used to process 7,540 tonnes of waste by Serge Ferrari in 2011.
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil on the horizon, plans are to utilise some of the recycled PVC from the London 2012 Olympic Games venues in the football stadiums currently being designed and constructed for this next major sporting event, continuing the legacy of this year’s Games and their outstanding architectural counterparts.
Do you have a cutting edge product or innovative invention to share with the AEC community? The 2012 WAN Product of the Year Award is now open for entries and we’re offering an Early Registration Discount of 15% if you register before 30th May 2012. Click here for more information.