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While the Sea-to-Sky highway construction has definitely ruffled some "green" feathers of Vancouver locals, the new Olympic buildings are meeting very high green standards. "Environmentally we've put a major focus on any of the buildings that are being built," says Linda Coady, Vice President of Sustainability for the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, which will cost more than $2 billion Canadian in total.
For example, the Olympic and Paralympic Village in Whistler will reuse captured methane gas from a former landfill for energy and the primary heat source for the community will be waste heat recovered from the municipal wastewater treatment system.
"The biggest accomplishment, which is really impressive, is there's going to be a net-zero building on the site," says Boyd Cohen from Simon Fraser University's Centre for Sustainable Community Development. The community centre in the Vancouver Olympic Village will be built to LEED platinum rating and be energy neutral. All the other buildings in the Vancouver Olympic Village will be built to LEED gold rating.
Perhaps ironically, the Sea-to-Sky Highway is part of British Columbia's Hydrogen Highway that will showcase hydrogen and fuel cell technology for visitors and motorists. The province spent about $89 million on twenty hydrogen buses and hydrogen infrastructure for Whistler that will ferry Olympics visitors around in 2010.
"Vancouver's [Olympic] commitment for sustainability was really driven by the citizens," notes Coady. "It was basically a condition that the citizens of Vancouver and Whistler imposed on their games." As a result, all of the building and venues will meet green building criteria.
Details of the 2010 Olympics carbon plan, which will track and offset carbon emissions, haven't been released yet. Coady says, "I can just say right now we're going to take responsibility for our carbon footprint."
"If your sports depend on snow and ice then you have an enhanced awareness of the effects of climate change," she notes.
Still, "we probably will be the greenest Olympics up until now," Cohen says, "but London 2012 blew us away; if they come close to achieving their stated objectives they're going to beat us by a long, long shot."