The massive scope of planning an Olympic games boggles the mind, and yet you know the unexpected still looms out there. Occasional weather issues notwithstanding, the Vancouver games has had its share of tough moments - the malfunction at the end of the opening ceremony, the tragic death on the luge track, even a freak fall into a ravine by a cross-country skier.

However, a lot went right, and part of that was the way sustainability cemented its place within the Olympic spirit, at least from an HVAC perspective. While you’d think fighting the cold might be the challenge, in a scenario like this, the real opportunity is in reusing waste heat, and it’s that recovery that has dominated the energy coverage.

The official Olympic site ( offers pages and pages on the sustainability efforts, but the piece that caught my eye reported on the Hillcrest / Nat Bailey Stadium Park. We discovered curling’s combination of strategy and its type of zen viewing experience (well, minus all the yelling) when we saw Canadian coverage while living in Michigan, so I’ve seen a lot of this venue on TV.

What I didn’t realize is that the long-term plan included a 50-meter pool right next to the curling space. The design will capture the heat from the refrigeration plant that cools the ice, using it to heat the pool.

The Whistler Sliding Centre’s situation was not quite so convenient, allowing a partial victory for efficiency. While engineers could use recovered heat from its refrigeration plant to condition its interior spaces, that still left a good 80% of the heat with nowhere to make itself useful, since the facility is set off by itself.

The Institute of Engineering & Technology ( picked up the coverage, via a February 3 article by Dmitri Vitaliev. It reports that likewise, Cimco supplied the Games with all its refrigeration systems and carried the heat recovery theme over to the Richmond Olympic Oval. There, fully 100% of the heat generated by the required refrigeration is refocused into everything from heating for grateful spectators to heating coils.

Vitaliev quotes the City of Richmond’s Greg Scott as saying that the design not only provides enough heat for all the Oval’s interior spaces, but that they have even more leftover after that. (In that case, actually, they reportedly will sometimes give the space a cost-free IAQ boost by increasing the amount of outdoor air they deliver, preheating it with this leftover recovered heat.)

Heat recovery wasn’t the entire story in Vancouver. Canada’s own mechanical trade publication, Plumbing & HVAC (, filed an unbylined February 9 article that told the secret of those attractive wooden arches you may have seen in shots of the Richmond Oval.

The pine arches were a fundamental part of the design from early on, but the design team wasn’t so happy about the thought of conventional ductwork running alongside this signature piece of local architectural flair. The solution? “They lined the V-shaped 100 metre arches with tin, drilled through and installed nozzles. The arches became the ductwork and housing for sprinklers and other systems.”

Nifty. The other bit of trivia about those pine arches, by the way, is that the wood comes from forests that have been ravaged by a beetle infestation. So while British Columbia wishes that weren't the case, the beetles would surely say they're just verifying the local flavor of these Olympics, eh?