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How Green Building Council Brasil shaped the sustainability of the Rio 2016 Olympic venues

Following London 2012’s crown of the “greenest games ever”, and Brazil’s existing social and environment challenges such as deforestation, poor water quality in certain areas and waste management issues, sustainability and social inclusion were identified as key priorities by the Brazilian Olympic Committee for the 2016 Games.

In Rio de Janeiro, nature is not just part of the city; it is the city itself. And beyond Rio, Brazil’s vast territory is endowed with stunning natural assets and diverse ecosystems such as the Amazon Rainforest – the largest in the world – and the Atlantic Forest, which together sustain some of the world’s greatest biodiversity.

The connection between GBC Brasil and the 2016 Olympic Project started at the end of 2007, before Rio was officially awarded the Games in 2009. After successful GBC Brasil-organised training which was delivered to architects and engineers from Rio de Janeiro City Hall, we were invited by the Brazilian Candidature Olympic Committee to join a group of organisations to help define the sustainable construction criteria that was included within the Official Candidature Document. At that time, GBC Brasil was already playing an important role in terms of developing extensive work on improving the quality of construction across Brazil.

For the ‘legacy’ construction projects (those used after the Games), the Government agreed to implement sustainability criteria throughout the concept, planning, construction, operation and maintenance phases. In terms of sustainable venue design and construction, the Committee committed to implement strict LEED certification guidelines, with all new sport venues focusing on reduced consumption of natural raw materials, the use of renewable natural resources, a minimum distance criteria for the transport of materials, and the reuse of demolition waste.

As a consequence of this commitment, not only are the permanent sport venues registered with LEED, but also the Athletes’ Village. The Athletes’ Village, which is a private investment project, is certified with LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND). Other projects from the private and public sectors that have been built in connection with the Olympics also decided to certify with LEED. Some examples of these public buildings are:

–        Museum of Art, LEED New Construction (NC) Silver.

–        Museum of Tomorrow, LEED NC Gold.

–        Public Library of Rio de Janeiro, LEED NC Gold.

The collaboration between GBC Brasil and the Brazilian Olympic Candidature Committee also drew attention from the Brazilian 2014 World Cup Local Organisation Committee (LOC) and the Ministry of Sport. This partnership inspired the LOC to recommend green building certification for all the stadiums chosen to host the 2014 FIFA football World Cup. Following GBC Brasil and other partners’ advocacy and market development activities, all 12 of the 2014 World Cup stadiums registered their projects with LEED and eight of them received certification, including the Mineirão Stadium in Belo Horizonte (which achieved LEED NC Platinum certification) and the Maracanã Stadium (pictured above) in Rio (which achieved LEED NC Silver certification). Both of these venues produce renewable energy from solar photovoltaic panels installed on their roofs, and Mineirão Stadium produces near to 1.6 MW, with plans to become net zero energy.

Maracanã Stadium is one of the most famous stadiums in the world and it will host both the Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies. It will be the first time in history that the Summer Olympic Games Opening Ceremony will be held in a sport venue certified by a green building certification tool.

It’s encouraging that all of the permanent sport venues, such as the Olympic Training Centre halls, Velodrome and Tennis Centre Court are LEED registered. To meet these LEED energy and water saving requirements, both passive and active measures and efficient fittings have been integrated into the designs, including recycled materials and insulated cool roofs. But because of mandatory technical issues necessary for the Games, the venues will have a different infrastructure during games mode (2016) and after, during legacy mode (2017 and beyond). This is the main reason why some of the venues have not finished the certification process, but we hope the City Hall will keep its commitment after the Games.

One of the main legacies of these projects has been connecting the major global sport event organisers – FIFA and the International Olympic Committee – with the international green building community. Sustainable construction and green building certification will now have a continued role in the Games, and will feature in its Legacy, Climate Change and Sustainability Report.

From an internal perspective, Rio de Janeiro City Hall reviewed and developed its bidding criteria and public procurement regulations to include additional practices and guidance focused on green building in order to certify the venues. This inspired the Federal Government, who in 2012 included sustainability as one of the main principals of Brazilian public procurement law. By this decree, legislation made clear that the best option for the public administration is not necessarily the lowest construction cost, and the public authority must now elaborate the bidding process in order to include the maintenance cost during the operation period.

In 2014 the Federal Government also reformed the bidding process for the federal administration to include a mandatory statement saying that buildings need to acquire Brazil’s national energy efficiency labelling programme called “Selo Procel Edifica” at level A. This programme analyses a building’s efficiency according to its façade, lighting and air conditioning systems.

Inspired by the Olympics projects, Rio de Janeiro City Hall has also created a tax incentive programme for green building, which is currently under discussion at the Chamber of Deputy. It is being replicated in other cities such as Sao Paulo. Here, the Mayor has plans to offer between 4 and 12 per cent discount in property tax for all new and existing, commercial or residential buildings that receive certification. This project is under discussion for approval at the Chamber of Deputy, but we can already see positive results in terms of new developers and builders that are engaging with it.

Organising an event like the Olympic Games is a major challenge in both its size and complexity, and GBC Brasil is pleased and honored by the collaborative role it has played in the run up to it. We believe that through this process the green building movement has created strong and deep roots with the sporting world, which is extremely valuable to help accelerate the construction industry’s transformation toward sustainability.

I hope all the spectators attending the Olympics enjoy watching the Games in these green venues, and I wish the best of luck to all the competitors who compete within them… and beyond!

Felipe Faria is Executive Director of Green Building Council Brasil