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
MacRobert Award, 2009
Tien Yow Jeme Civil Engineering Award, 2009