7 Amazing Olympic Green Buildings

Water Cube Olympics

If you’re like me, the architecture and sheer grandiosity of Beijing 2008 Olympics is blowing your mind.  Gotta give props to what’s going on over there, seriously.  The precision, planning, and persistence of this machine is quite compelling.   With all the new and temporary structures now built, it’s hard to discuss everything — but you’ll find some interesting images and information below.  Notably, China might have raised the bar for future cities that are presented with the opportunity to host the Olympics.  China’s work isn’t done, I mean, pollution is unreal and the country is now the world’s largest CO2 emitter, but this article is an attempt to recognize positive efforts.  When future Olympic cities start to build up infrastructure, transportation, and venues, as they invariably will, this website thinks China has presented some new lessons in how to be bold, economic, and green. 

Beijing National Stadium - Bird's Nest

Home of both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, this stadium will also feature the track and field and soccer events.  With roughly 11,000 in temporary seating arrangements for the Olympics, it will have 80,000 permanent seats.  Dubbed the Bird’s Nest, the structure takes on the appearance of a nest as interwoven structural elements of the facade camouflage the structure underneath.  Beijing National Stadium was designed by a consortium of Herzog & de Meuron Architekten AG, Arup Sports, and China Architectural Design and Research Group.  The Bird’s Nest is supposed to gather roughly 70% of the water needed to run the facility.  Also, there’s a movie coming out about the building.  See more Bird’s Nest photos

Water Cube

Also known as Water Cube, the National Aquatics Center was designed to resemble a cube of water, or bubbles.  The bubbles are made of a transparent plastic called ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (or ETFE) which is filled with air and attached to a steel frame surrounding the edge of the bubble.  The Water Cube is expected to be 30% more energy efficient than a standard building of similar size.  The building takes on different colors from LED lights, which are super efficient.  Water Cube was designed by Arup, PTW, and China State Construction and Engineering Corporations.  See more Water Cube photos

National Indoor Stadium

The National Indoor Stadium has photovoltaic generators installed under the roof and behind the curtain walls of the structure putting out as much as 100 kilowatts of electricity daily.  Attached to the walls and roof of the stadium, the PV system has over 1,100 solar battery components.  The $125 million stadium seats ~19,000 and was designed by Glöckner3 Architektur und Städtebau with Beijing Institute of Architectural Design to resemble an open Chinese fan. 

RMJM Convention Centre

This convention center was designed by RMJM to filter roughly 20,000 accredited journalists throughout the Olympics.  RMJM’s design includes systems that make use of natural elements along with very  efficient insulation throughout the building.  Additional green features include rain water collection on the roof for flushing systems and irrigation of the surrounding landscape, an ice storage cooling system, and a "free air cooling" ventilation system in the public foyers of the convention centre.


Expected to house over 16,000 athletes and officials during the Olympic Games, Beijing Olympic Village has a list of green elements, most of which relate to both energy and water efficiency.  With green tech such as solar heating, solar hot water, solar thermoelectric cogeneration, and intelligent controls, Olympic Village buildings consume about 1/30th of the energy consumed by conventional buildings.  Plus, 200 tons of water will be recycled every day and used in landscaping.  The 160-acre village has received LEED Gold certification, as well.  Read more on Olympic Village’s green features

Basketball Gymnasium

With a capacity for 18,000 spectators, the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium has an LED display system, rainwater recycling system, easy to clean glass and other technologies, and solar panels that provide some of the building’s energy.  Designed by Beijing Architecture Research Institute, the structure is wrapped in an aluminum-alloy cladding, which looks surprising similar to bamboo or some kind of natural wood.  At night, colorful LEDs bounce off the cladding and light up the structure.  Read more on Olympic Basketball Gymnasium

Olympic Green Tennis Center

Designed for natural ventilation, you may notice that the shape of this structure resembles a flower, or petals of a flower.  The stadium has 12 sections that look like 12 petals of a lotus flower.  The Olympic Green Tennis Center features a zero-discha rge sewage treatment system where 100% of sewage is treated through membrane biological reactors before being recycled for watering.  The structure is further equipped with a geothermal heat pump system through which ground sourced energy is absorbed for cooling and heating. 

Of general note, apparently ~90 percent of all the hot water used in the Olympic village will be solar heated.  Additionally, 80-90 percent of street lights around Olympic venues will be solar powered.  China is said to be the world’s biggest user of solar water heating.  China’s heavy emphasis on solar water heating has created tons of jobs and economic benefits for the country. 

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  • Anonymous

    You see how come china can do all this yet us in america have a problem even changing a few light bulbs in our homes…..

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      The interesting thing is we’re not talking about light bulbs, though. I mean, in that last paragraph, we’re talking about solar hot water. How many of us Americans even know what that is? But we’ll get there. We will.

    • charles

      Oh shoot i was going to say that…lol

    • Bacon

      Because their workers aren’t really given a choice.

  • Wolfie Rankin

    Don’t forget the people they evicted from their homes to erect those.

    Wolfie Rankin

  • Beard

    oooooo nice one rankin

    Buh dum Tsh

  • http://www.aeonpi.com aoen

    just make the changes in your life.. Research.. and do it.

  • http://jetsongreen.disqus.com Armen

    Just because the gaudy, unnecessary spectacle of these buildings is more efficient than using conventional means doesn’t make it any more “green” or “sustainable”. Covering a building in LED’s to make a fashion statement isn’t any more environmentally friendly than covering it in incandescent bulbs. It makes it a big, wasteful bauble sucking up energy in a severely impoverished and polluted country in a world where energy is getting more and more scarce.

  • din

    That’s true but we still have much better air and water quality.

  • fakhrur

    wow.. when we can ‘spot’ other mistakes, how easy we think that we’re better then them..

    fyi china is a home for more than 1.7 bil. people guys, on the other side each american pollutes more than chinese does.. so shame yourself!

    ah so easy for me to say this.. i’m no american, nor chinese

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      I think it’s more like 1.3 billion, but your point is no less valid. The point of this article was to shed some positive light on what China did to prepare for these Olympics, but there are some bottom feeder commenters that always have to be negative. Anyway, no reason to think that anyone is better than anyone …

  • http://constructionblog.org Melv

    my sister told me the Water Cube is really nice at night

  • Ray W

    Can anyone honestly imagine Great Britain coming up with anything like that, our politicians can’t even do the work they have now, I think it’ll be more embarrassment for us Brits, the rest of the world laugh at us as it is, just wait until 2012.
    Ray W

  • Irv Beckman

    The architecture is superb. How can I determine the right time to photograph each of the buildings in the Olympic Park? I will be in Beijing on 10/14/08. Thank you.

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      Irv, I wish I could help you with your photography question, but I’m not that knowledgeable with the art of photography. Might I suggest Digital Photograph School? It’s a good website that I use for learning to be a better photographer.

  • christina

    need more information

  • Raquel

    coolio. i like it alot, very interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Alright you win, America rules.

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