Lecture on the 2012 London Velodrome


Lecture: London 2012 Velodrome:  An Example of Integrated and Sustainable Design
Lecturers: Mike Taylor, Gustavo Brunelli and Ed Mc Cann
Architecture Association School of Architecture
17 January 2012


london velodrome
2012 Olympic Velodrome, London. Hopkins Architects.
Photo: Richard Davies


London 2012 Velodrome is the second lecture in a series of discussions about sustainable architecture design.  Presenting at the lecture were three of the key designers for the London Olympic Velodrome, a light-weight, double-curving, cable-net roof structure meant to reflect the shape of the cycling track.  A major focus of the project was sustainability and the use of enviornmentally responsible materials.  A series of thoughtfully placed skylights floods the interior with soft, diffused light, avoiding the harshness of direct sunlight.

The Velodrome can be naturally ventilated most of the year, eliminating the need for air conditioning, thus reducing its energy consumption and C02 output.  In terms of design and construction, the Velodrome is the most sustainable venue in the Olympic park.

Construction on the Velodrome began in 2008 and was completed in February 2011.

Presenters at the lecture were: Mike Taylor, a  Senior Partner of Hopkins Architects, Gustavo Brunelli, an Associate Consultant of BDSP Partnership Consulting Engineers, and Ed McCann, Director of Expedition Engineering.


The new Velodrome for the 2012 Olympics is an amazing structure!  From building techniques to its energy efficiency, I must say to the design firm Images + Architects, Bravo.  The woman giving the introduction to the lecture said that if medals were given out in the 2012 Olympics for architecture, the Velodrome would receive the gold medal.

As with any building project, especially with Olympic buildings, cost is at the front of every one’s mind.  Because of the tight budget restraints, the Velodrome is actually a very simple building.  There are no frills, no finishes.  Everything one sees serves a purpose and has a function.  All of the panels on the exterior are actually flat, which brings down costs, however, they are assembled to look as if they are curved.

The roof is particularly interesting.  Because of its enormous span, a double curve was implemented.  Double curves are more stable and efficient on these large roof spans.  The foundation of the roof is a steel net, borrowing from the principles of a spider’s web.  The steel cables were cut within millimetres of their required length and then simply stretched over the building and put into place, much like a cargo net over the bed of a pickup truck.  The entire roof took only eight weeks to put on.   For comparison, the entire Velodrome was built in the time it took the builders to put on the roof of the new Olympic aquatics building.

The Velodrome had very rigid guidelines regarding temperature, air movement, and light.  The internal temperature had to be around 28ºC because cyclists perform better in warmer temperatures.  Air movement has to be restricted (from the heating/cooling systems) because of the lightness and speed of the bikes.  The slightest gust of air can throw a cyclist off balance.  During the Olympics in Athens, many such problems occurred because the Velodrome was outside. The new Velodrome also needed to have a lot of natural light. The Velodrome solved these problems in a fairly straightforward, practical, and ecological manner.  Some of the interesting solutions they came up with include: using the same vents (“gills” as they called them) for both natural and mechanical air intake; installing heated floors to localize the heat around the athletes; and harnessing as much of the heat in the air as possible (from the interior).

Although the building looks curvy, high-tech, and is very large, the architects actually used simple, efficient building techniques and materials, which saved millions of pounds.  Just goes to show that one really can’t judge a book by its cover.

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