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Olympic goal

CONCRETE ENGINEERING - The concrete industry has played a big role in the construction of many recent football stadiums. Alan Bromage explains why this means it can play a big part in the build up to the London 2012 Olympics.

The 2012 Olympics offers UK engineers the chance to showcase innovative and sustainable design to make it the most environmentally friendly Games ever.

As well as a strong emphasis on cost-effective modern methods of construction, Olympic buildings and infrastructure must offer a meaningful legacy.

To help make this happen, the UK cement and concrete sector has formed the Concrete Olympic Construction Committee to ensure a positive contribution from the concrete sector.

Concrete offers a number of inherent benefits that The Concrete Centre believes make it the right choice for long-term sustainable construction (see box).

Precast or insitu concrete could be used for construction of the Olympic Village. Precast only requires assembly or stitching together on site, and is particularly suited to projects where a fine quality concrete finish is required. Load bearing precast concrete cladding can also be used as a structural frame, allowing a building to be weather proof as quickly as possible.

Alternatively, if insitu concrete is preferred, modular formwork such as Tunnel form, can be used, which can result in frame costs being reduced by 15%, and programme costs by 25%.

When it comes to stadia design, things have changed little since the Colosseum was constructed in Rome. Concentric corridors under seats, with spectator distribution inwards towards the arena are the norm.

London's Olympic Stadium will have a traditional role as a centrepiece for the opening and closing ceremonies in 2012. But it and other stadia also need to be future proofed so they can be modified to meet future needs.

This was the thinking behind the City of Manchester Stadium, which featured in the 2002 Commonwealth Games. With a seating capacity of 48,000, the stadium included a running track and a practice facility for athletics and gymnastics. The stadium was designed so that it could be modified from an athletics stadium to a dedicated football stadium, which has now become home to Manchester City Football Club.

To enable this change, it was necessary to remove the running track and construct an extra tier of terracing between the existing middle tier and the edge of the new playing surface. Precast supplier CV Buchan successfully programmed the manufacture, storage, delivery and installation of the lower terracing, which could be modified quickly.

Stadia also often have to be built within a tight construction programme, such as between forthcoming events or to coincide with an off-season for the sport. This was the case at the new 7,500 seater North Stand at Ipswich Football Club (pictured below). Work on site could not start until the end of the 2000/2001 football season in May, but had to be completed as soon as possible for the start of the next season that August.

To achieve this, the project team capitalised on the off-site prefabrication benefits of precast concrete - minimal requirement for applied finishes, inherent fire resistance and fast erection.

The result was that the precast superstructure was completed in just 23 weeks.

Meanwhile, unctionality combined with inspiration' was the brief for Arsenal Football Club's Emirates Stadium.

Described by Islington Council as 'one of the most exciting regeneration projects in the country', the multi-million pound 60,000 seat stadium rises up from a landscaped podium 6m above the existing ground level.

Access from the podium, to a lower pedestrian plaza, is via twin sets of precast concrete steps and ramp. Under the podium and within the stadium building are shops, restaurants and car parking. Precast concrete, supplied by Tarmac, was used for the terracing units.

The underside of the units on the upper tiers are visible from underneath and so required a high quality concrete finish.

In addition to the terracing units, Tarmac supplied the disabled platform and vomitory units, upstands and player tunnel sections.

The cost efficiency of easy concrete stadium construction is further enhanced by the use of precast stairs and landings that provide safe and quick access to floors. Similarly, the terrace seating units, vomitories and step units are delivered to site for immediate positioning on prepared bearings.

Generally, terrace units can be designed and manufactured to a maximum length of 9m and fixed directly on bearing stools to the raker beams.

Alan Bromage is head of civil

Five reasons concrete is good for the environment

1 It is the ultimate 'local' material. Rather than have raw material transported from thousands of miles away, concrete can be sourced from UK-based suppliers.

2 A concrete structure has a high thermal mass. An exposed concrete structure facilitates fabric energy storage. This means it can regulate variations in internal temperature and help reduce the reliance on energy-intensive mechanical and building services.

3 It is durable and can easily be reused, rather than replaced.

4 It is 100% recyclable, and all UK reinforcement is fabricated from recycled steel.

5 It does not need any environmentally unfriendly coatings or paint to protect it against fire or deterioration.

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