Olympic House secures highest environmental award

The International Olympic Committees Olympic House in Switzerland has secured the highest environmental accreditation thanks to its sustainability


  • Mahesh Ramanujam

19 April 2020

Olympic House

When you consider an athlete's movement - fluid and continuous - there wouldn't seem to be any correlation with the structure of a building. But approaching Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland, you'll notice the green base of the building blends in with its surroundings, creating a seamless connection with the natural world around it.

"Olympic House has been designed to create a seamless connection with the natural world around it"

As you enter, you'll observe that the design of its central staircase echoes the shape of the Olympic rings and encourages the movement of the people inside. It is a well-thought-out design that represents the excellence it celebrates in athletes. That commitment earned the building a platinum rating, the highest for green building under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design programme (LEED).

But Olympic House is also one of the most breathtaking buildings I've seen. I have the honour of serving as president and chief executive of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) the organisation behind LEED, which is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. By providing a framework for creating healthful, highly efficient and cost-saving buildings it's a globally recognised symbol of sustainability achievement.

Capturing the Olympic spirit

In June 2018, I experienced the completed Olympic House first hand at its opening while presenting the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with its LEED plaque. Not only does this space embody what the Olympics stand for, but it also affirms the IOC's commitment to health and sustainability through the meticulous measures it has taken to meet rigorous LEED standards.

LEED requires that regularly occupied spaces provide access to outdoor views and natural daylight, which occupants of Olympic House enjoy, as well as good air quality, temperature control and acoustic performance. On top of that, special efforts were made to choose ergonomic furniture and sustainable materials throughout the building. True to the Olympic spirit, the building promotes active and ecological mobility, with 135 bicycle spaces, employee subsidies for sustainable transportation, chargers for electric cars and a hydrogen fuelling station. Of course, the IOC promotes sporting and active lifestyles, so occupants are encouraged to use dedicated spaces such as the large gym or, more generally, take the staircase to get from one level to another.

From the earliest stages, the project worked with existing materials from local communities, crushing concrete from former administration buildings on site for re-use in the foundations of the new building. More than 95 per cent of the previous headquarters was re-used or recycled, and 80 per cent of construction money was spent with local companies contributing to the development of local competencies.

As part of USGBC's Living Standard campaign, we've been helping those outside the green building community understand the positive impact such buildings can have on occupants' health and well-being. We already know about the life-changing and even life-saving benefits of green buildings; but how do we get everyone to understand that the spaces they occupy affect them in a very basic way? By sharing our experiences and speaking about the spaces we build in terms of their tangible benefits for occupants, we can help move the needle. And Olympic House is a living example of what were pushing so hard to do. The story of Olympic House - its design, its commitment to sustainability and its huge emphasis on human health and wellness - is one to be celebrated and shared.

Mahesh Ramanujam is president and chief executive officer at USGBC mramanujam@usgbc.org

Related competencies include: Sustainability

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