Building control: Olympic Park development since the 2012 games

Park life

24 July 2015

Barney Hatt catches up with Gordon Roy, London Borough of Newham Building Control Leader, on the development of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park since the London 2012 Games

What was building control's involvement throughout the Olympics?

Involvement started back in 2007 with the formation of the Joint Local Authority Building Control team (JLAB) by the 5 London Olympic boroughs (Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest).

JLAB's responsibility was to provide building control for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) during construction of the park and then the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games right up until the opening of the Games. We had meetings with the construction and design teams every week, particularly regarding the temporary structures. They all had to have building control approval because planning permission is required if the building is to be used for more than 28 days.

The scale of the project was massive; bringing in kit from all over Europe. We had a 3-storey tented structure providing 3,000 seats as a restaurant. There was a megastore and TV studios off park as well. It was a big undertaking, but because we had 5 boroughs involved we had the resources to do it.

How did you deal with the change of use from athletes’ accommodation to dwellings on the site?

Right from the start, all the buildings were built with the legacy in mind. Yes, the village was built for athletes but all the accommodation were designed to make it as easy as possible to change them to individual units. Some partitions had to be removed, and kitchens had to be installed because these had not been provided for the athletes. In total, there were about 3,500 units.

Right from the start, all the buildings were built with the legacy in mind

The biggest problem was that when work started it was realised that the conversion was going to take longer than originally thought. JLAB had already implemented an inspection regime but the ODA wanted a much tougher programme, so we needed extra resources. At Newham we have always used a basic tracker system to record outstanding inspection items on a spreadsheet, as had our colleagues at the other councils, so everyone knew exactly what was required. The completion certificates issued represented the highest number achieved in such a short period of time.

Did the changes in Part L between original build and post-Olympic occupation cause any problems?

The original scheme was built not just to comply with Part L 2008 but was 15% better because an energy centre was installed to provide all the hot water and heating. So when the regulations changed in 2010 it did not affect us.

How much did the removal/downsizing of buildings affect the original mechanical and engineering design philosophies?

All the plant brought in for the main legacy buildings is still there. But anything associated only with the event was separate kit so it could be easily taken out. Buildings such as the Velodrome and the Handball Arena – now renamed the Copper Box Arena – were designed for both and there has been very little alteration in legacy. By way of contrast, the basketball and water polo arenas were temporary so they were dismantled and sold off.

Have you found any performance gap details in the original build?

The Copper Box was always designed as a multi-use building so it was just tweaked to make it even more suitable for a bigger range of sports. The Olympic Stadium is a completely different case because the original legacy concept has changed and it is now being redeveloped as a multi-use events stadium.

What factors do building control need to take into account to ensure ongoing compliance with the Building Regulations?

From the start, Lord Coe's team made it clear that legacy was the goal, but some buildings had adaptations for the Games. The Aquatics Centre stands out because huge wings were added to give around 17,000 spectators a clear view of the swimming pool, but these were designed to be removed leaving a legacy 2,500 seater venue.

The problem with the stadium is that the legacy use has changed to become a football stadium. This meant that it had to be redesigned, which is taking longer, but when it is completed it will be a tremendous venue.

What stage is it at now?

It opens for the Rugby World Cup in September with 5 matches taking place in the stadium. It will then close and be modified ready to reopen in summer 2016 when West Ham Football Club will move in permanently. The stadium is under development and could potentially be used by other sports. The bottom tier of seats will be moveable to allow the running track to be reinstated. There are other venues around the world that have a similar design, such as the Stade de France in Paris, but it is the first in the UK.

What type of projects are being developed as part of the legacy?

The Aquatics Centre has won major awards in design and construction. It is a spectacular facility with 2 Olympic-sized swimming pools, a 25m diving pool and indoor training facilities, plus superb meeting rooms.

The Velodrome is probably one of the best cycling venues in the world, with every facility. The heating and lighting design is so efficient that energy use is minimised. The Copper Box is used by the London basketball teams, plus wheelchair basketball and handball games. It can be hired for badminton and is used by schools as well as for major boxing matches.

Building control also covers safety in sports grounds, applying the Building Regulations to make it seamless

Work has started on the International Broadcasting Media Centre, with BT Sport television studios already in the building, and Loughborough University and other high-tech industries to follow. It will be a huge asset to the park when it is completed in 2016.

The London Legacy Development Corporation has a masterplan, which includes new houses where the Basketball Arena sat, and flats in other areas of the park. Plans also include a new cultural quarter with developments by the Victoria and Albert Museum, The University of the Arts London, University College London and Sadler's Wells Theatre.

How much has the park development affected the area generally?

The northernmost venue of the park, Eton Manor, is now renamed the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. With 4 indoor and 6 outdoor tennis courts and 2 state-of-the art hockey pitches, it is sure to be heavily used.

The park is regenerating the whole area. The Westfield shopping complex is next door, the Village is up and running, and there are quite a few housing developments in and around Stratford.

What are the effects on the local community?

The park is well used and it is a lovely environment for kids to play, and parents to sit and picnic. There is an eco-centre, 2 cafes, a new school and a medical centre. There is also a lot of student accommodation coming in with universities constructing new campus buildings. It is all ongoing and exciting.

In the summer there are also a lot of events that bring people in. With the stadium opening it will attract more and more people. It is a beautifully landscaped park and well maintained.

How will building control be involved in future?

JLAB is still providing building control to the legacy company and we are looking to continue this. The City of London is currently an unofficial JLAB member but may become an official member so we are getting stronger all the time. If any big clients come into the area, the JLAB team will be able to provide a service to them.

Building control also covers safety in sports grounds, applying the Building Regulations to make it seamless. When the management team comes on board in the stadium we will work with them to make sure safety in sports grounds continues to be applied. We have acquired an extremely high level of knowledge and have provided advice to other building control teams on these issues.

The Sports Safety Grounds Authority is a fantastic source of advice, but it is good to also have the pool of knowledge within JLAB. Because we have to deal with so many venues, we have probably come across the query before, and we are more than happy to pass on that knowledge.

Barney Hatt is Editor of Building Control journal

Further information

Related competencies include: Legal/regulatory compliance

This feature is taken from the RICS Building Control journal (June/July 2015)