A friendly and sustainable Olympic Village for Paris 2024

The recently inaugurated Paris 2024 Olympic Village was built according to modern principles of sustainability and environmental friendliness, in addition to its social benefits after the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Athletes’ Village for the Paris Olympic Games incorporates a number of innovations designed to make it a model of low-carbon construction, including the use of geothermal energy within the Paris Olympic Village. Concerned about the huge emissions generated by the Games, from construction to air travel and catering, the Paris 2024 organisers set out to make the Village as environmentally friendly as possible, in line with the current parameters set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The 40 blocks containing 2,800 apartments will produce around half the carbon emissions of equivalent buildings built using conventional construction techniques, taking into account energy savings over their lifetime, according to the construction company in charge (SOLIDEO).

After being used by Olympic and Paralympic athletes between 26 July and 8 September, about a third of the apartments will be sold to private owners, others will be converted into offices, another third will be used for social housing and the rest will be rented out, including to students, to ensure sustainability.

The organisers are proud of their contribution to the environment, as the village requires no air conditioning, with indoor temperatures up to six degrees lower than outside in summer. The secret lies in the reversible underground pipework connected to a local geothermal power station, which draws cold water from the ground in summer and very low ground heat in winter. 

The renewable system helps to drastically reduce the running costs and carbon footprint of the buildings, despite some criticism from sporting delegations that it will not provide the necessary comfort for the athletes competing in Paris from 26 July.

Many countries, including the United States, have requested that portable air conditioning units be provided as a precautionary measure, which goes against the policy of avoiding the use of energy-intensive air conditioning.

According to Georgina Grenon, head of sustainability for the Paris Games, the property companies had to use new construction techniques to build the apartments while producing 30 per cent fewer emissions per square metre than a traditional building.

In many cases, builders swapped carbon-intensive concrete for wood, resulting in many of the structures using the natural material for their central columns, as well as for facades and floors. Low-carbon concrete, which uses less energy-intensive materials and processes to make the binder, was used extensively throughout the site. Recycled concrete was also used as ballast on the site and mixed with compost to form a base layer for the gardens.

“We chose materials not for their technical, economic or architectural qualities, but for their carbon footprint,” says Julie Bosch, project director at property group Vinci Immobilier, which built part of the village.

The public spaces around the houses have also been designed to show alternatives that could be replicated in the future. The 52-hectare village boasts large gardens, which will cover 40 per cent of the total land area and include 9,000 trees and shrubs when the area is fully developed after the Olympics. 

“This is a very high proportion and, with our water recycling system, it will allow areas for relaxation and cooling,” Charles Richard-Molard, deputy director in charge of public spaces at Solideo, told journalists. The village, located north of Paris, also has a miniature water treatment centre that will collect and purify wastewater, which can then be used in the gardens, making efficient use of natural resources. “The village is already prepared for the climate of 2050,” added Nicolas Ferrand, managing director of SOLIDEO.

An experimental building, known as the “Cycle building”, will use purified rainwater for its toilets, which are designed to separate urine and faeces, which can then be turned into fertiliser.

Other innovations on show to the 14,500 or so Olympic athletes and coaches include the use of recycled oyster shells, which absorb more heat than traditional tiles, and pine resin instead of petroleum-based asphalt.

When it comes to efficiency, the circular economy is a must. Around 300,000 household items destined for the Olympic Village will be reused after the Games. Julia Watson, Solideo’s deputy director for the Village, said: “We only signed contracts with suppliers if they could prove that they could recycle or reuse.”

The bed bases are made from reinforced cardboard and the mattresses are made from recycled fishing nets, the same system used at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Much of the street furniture is made from reclaimed wood, while some of the public lighting is made from recycled steel tubes.

With all these constructive measures in place, concerns about climate change and the negative impact of the huge carbon footprint of an event like the Summer Olympics, which brings together athletes and spectators from around the world every four years, would seem to have been allayed.

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