The Watercube, the Olympic Swimming Pool is the most striking example of a new way of constructing.
The Watercube was completed a week and a half ago. From the outside, the building looks like a rectangular shoe box, but not in any way dull. The outer layer of the building comprises 3,000 high-tech luminous plastic bubbles. This semi-transparent membrane structure is capable of letting in sunlight to heat the water in the pool. Less steel was needed, because the weight of the plastic is only 1 % of that of glass.
The hall has a seating capacity of 17,000 and with 100,000 m2 of plastic used, it is the most complex structure in the world.
In addition to the use of innovative materials, an ingenious water collection system makes it possible to filter water. A sophisticated lighting system allows the Watercube to be illuminated in any colour at night. The futuristic venue costing well over 100 million Euros will only be used for two weeks.
Note: Bolidt was commissioned by BayerMaterialScience to install its Bolidtop® Bubblebar flooring in the VIP bar of the Olympic Pool. It is the only place where the luminous plastic bubbles can be touched.
The Water Cube’s breathtaking architecture is matched by engineering innovations in fabrication, materials and environmental management. - Dr Geoff Robinson, Chairman, MacRobert Award judging panel.
The Water Cube acts like a greenhouse thanks to the blue bubble ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) material façade. Its translucent quality allows natural daylight to penetrate the building interior, and acts as an insulator to passively heat the building and pool water. This sustainable concept reduced energy consumption by 30% – the equivalent to covering the entire roof in photovoltaic panels.
Arup used a revolutionary virtual prototyping programme to create a model with associated data that could be accessed by the entire design team. For the first time a truly multi-disciplinary integrated design was achieved, streamlining the design process to increase effectiveness without increasing costs.
The National Aquatics Center (Water Cube) is located in the Olympic Green, the focal point of the 2008 Beijing Games. The blue bubble rectangular structure has a gross floor area of 70,000m2, and houses five swimming pools, a wave machine, rides, a restaurant, and 17,000 spectator seats.
Arup developed a computer programme to carry out structural analysis, optimisation and design of the building. The automated programme allowed many design options to be considered quickly and accurately. We used this to determine the minimum size of each of the 22,000 steel members in the structure; and during the optimisation phase we tested the 22,000 steel members and 12,000 nodes under 190 different load cases to determine optimal strength and weight.
Aside from it’s sustainable benefits, the ETFE façade is also self-cleaning, and incredibly robust – even though it only weighs 1% of an equivalent sized glass pane.
However, this façade and soap bubble design was only accepted by the local fire authority because of Arup’s performance-based fire engineering. We proved that the ETFE material – which is highly combustible – in its soap bubble form would actually shrink away from the fire. This design was self-venting, allowing smoke to billow out of the building. Additionally, we designed a fire strategy using advanced computer modelling of smoke and people movements that would protect and afford occupants enough time to leave the building using the same routes as entering.
Arup’s acoustic consultants also considered the comfort and safety of occupant. We designed an internal environment where the sounds of enraptured crowds are rich and vibrant without drowning out commentary and public announcements; crucial in moments of evacuation.
Royal Institute of British Architects International Award, 2009
Vector Foiltec are delighted to announce that we have completed our contract to design and build the National Aquatics Centre for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
This prestigious project with the Head Contractor, China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), comprises over 100,000sqm of ETFE foils making this the single largest ETFE structure in the world to date.
Designed by CSCEC International Design and Australian Architects, Peddle Thorp Walker, in conjunction with Arup Engineers, The Beijing National Aquatics Centre has already been the focus of major international interest and accolade.
The National Aquatics Centre is located in the heart of Beijing and will be directly opposite the main stadium complex. It will host the swimming, diving, water polo, synchronized swimming competitions and other events for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Vector Foiltec has pioneered the use of Texlon ETFE, the climatic envelope, successfully developing and promoting the use of this innovative technology Worldwide.
The Texlon ETFE Cladding System offers designers unparalleled opportunities in the development of the climatic envelope.
Texlon ETFE consists of pneumatic cushions restrained in aluminium extrusions and supported by a lightweight structure. The cushions are inflated with low-pressure air to provide insulation and resist wind loads.
The cushions are manufactured from multiple layers of a modified co-polymer called ethylene-tetra-fluoro-ethylene (ETFE). Originally developed for the space industry, the material is unique in that it does not degrade under ultra-violet light or atmospheric pollution.