It has been a pretty good year for world sport. Highlights include the recent impressive displays of sporting prowess demonstrated at the Commonwealth Games, Wimbledon and the World Cup; news that London has won the 2012 Olympics, and the (admittedly belated) completion of Wembley Stadium.
All these major events have produced – or will produce – valuable work for the building services industry, and substantial employment opportunities for its employees.
But, I believe, there are two factors that overshadow even these significant gains – namely, the ability of big sporting events to elevate the profile of the air movement / air conditioning industry, and the transfer of technology made possible by technical advancements made at major sporting venues.
On the first point, high profile sporting projects, such as the Olympics and the World Cup, attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, all of whom experience the benefits of the comfort cooling the venues have to offer.
To cope with the sweltering heat of Athens in 2004, for example, Trox provided a wide range of air movement products for the Olympic Weight Lifting and Heavy Games Halls, Athletics Centres, Sailing Base, Velodrome, Aquatic Centre and Equestrian Centre, as well as the Media and Broadcasting Centres.
We also contributed air movement equipment to many of the football stadiums in Germany used to stage the World Cup earlier this year.
Huge though these developments were, they pale into insignificance when compared with the infrastructure projects that supported them. In order to cope with a massive influx of people to the Athens Olympics, for example, the Greek authorities commissioned a series of vast projects including upgrading Athens International Airport and the city’s International Train Station.
And the incidental project list went even further, extending to improvements in hotels, retail outlets, restaurants and transport links. The same, of course, applied to the World Cup in Germany, as well as other big sporting events.
This sort of activity has an enormous capacity to raise the public’s awareness of air conditioning and air movement. It also has a potentially powerful knock on impact on people’s perceptions of comfort cooling long after the sporting event itself is over.
Allied to this awareness raising is the fact that people who visit landmark sports venues have particularly high expectations for everything from the quality of venue itself to the comfort of the seating.
The same, of course, applies to environmental comfort. This places a huge responsibility on air movement / air conditioning manufacturers to develop state-of-the-art products that will meet these expectations.
For example, areas with high ceilings pose particular challenges for manufacturers of air movement equipment – they have to find a way to get the air down into occupied space below, otherwise the benefits of whatever heating or cooling they have applied to the air will be lost. An international manufacturer like Trox can call upon global R&D facilities, and that is why the company has solved this particular problem by developing a special jet nozzle diffuser that is ideally suited to the requirements of major high-ceilinged sporting venues.
This brings me to the second important benefit of big contracts like the Olympics to manufacturers – the ability to use the technology developed for them in more conventional settings.
Of course, by their nature, landmark sports venues are unique in terms of their comfort cooling / heating technology – one-off buildings pose one-off technical challenges. Sports venues, such as those provided for the Olympic Games, pose particular challenges – for example, badminton courts demand that the air is tempered rather than relying on full blown air conditioning because any air movement will impact negatively on the game. Generally, though, technical challenges are universal, which makes the technology appropriate for a range of applications.
However, there are also similarities. Shopping centres and airports, for example, are no different from large sporting arenas in the sense that they are both large spaces that must be heated or cooled in such a way that their occupants are kept comfortable. In this respect, the air movement and air conditioning technology are transferable.
But it is not just the technology itself that is important; it is also the ease with which it can be installed. Building services, and especially air movement and air conditioning equipment, including grilles, louvres, and diffusers, are usually fitted at the final stages of the project, and there is inevitably pressure on the installation team’s time. This is where prefabrication can play a crucial role in simplifying the installation process. Not only does it speed up installation time, but it also contributes to safety and quality because the entire air movement / air conditioning assembly can be built under controlled factory conditions, and – at least in the case of Trox – analysed in test labs to ensure that it works properly.
The winners at sports venues are not limited to those who compete within them. Enlightened building services manufacturers can also claim significant victories.