Reflections on the Retrofit Games

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This summer Glasgow played host to the XX Commonwealth Games. With 70% of the venues used already in use before the Games, retrofit played a key role. Following the construction woes of the Delhi Games, this provided reassurance from the outset for the organisers. In addition, the reuse and adaptation of existing venues also removed the risk of new stadia becoming ‘white elephants’, while allowing the available funding to be focused on creating new facilities in areas of need; improving the local environment around the existing venues; and creating better transport and infrastructure routes between these locations. Architecture and Design Scotland have been exploring the sustainability legacy of the Commonwealth Games for the last 6 months in their GREEN2014 exhibition and events Programme.

Some venues such as Celtic Park, Ibrox and Scotstoun were utilised in their current state as sports venues, where others, such as the SECC were used for sports for the first time. Retrofit and temporary interventions played a key role in a few of the venues, effecting how we enjoyed the following sports:

Swimming took place in Tolcross, Glasgow’s only 50m pool and home to the Scottish Swimming squad. Building on this existing resource, the pool was extended to incorporate an additional 50m training pool and upgraded community facilities. Additional seating was added in the pool hall, with an additional 3000 temporary seats included just for the duration of the games.

Athletics took place in Hampden Park, Scotland’s National Football Stadium, which was by far the most ambitious Retrofit project and arguably making the most savings in carbon and cost compared with the alternative of building a brand new athletics stadium, in a peripheral location, which would have incurred the provision of access infrastructure and services. Hampden is located a short distance from the city centre and is frequently used for major sporting events and thus already well-equipped for dealing with large crowds. To adapt Hampden from a football stadium to an athletics’ arena required a new playing surface, raised up by 1.9m removing several rows of seats as illustrated in the short video below.

Momentously, Edinburgh Royal Commonwealth Pool was used as the Diving venue for the Commonwealth Games for the third time. In contrast to the London aquatic centre which purportedly cost more than the entire Glasgow Games, the XX Commonwealth Games made use of an excellent venue just an hour away. As outlined in the Case Study featured below, the building was upgraded to bring the diving facilities up to the latest international standard. An 800m2 solar roof was installed, which should generate 458,000kWh, saving 70 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year. Furthermore, a 237kW(e) combined heating and power (CHP) system will provide 225kW of heating, with a combined saving approximately 400 tonnes of CO2 per year. These interventions have provided the city of Edinburgh with a valuable and efficient resource for years to come.


The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow was awarded the ISO 20121 Standard for Sustainable Event Management in a Ceremony at A&DS in Glasgow in June 2014, in recognition of consideration of sustainable issues across the board from the venues, to catering, waste management and the design of the medals. The Games was a huge success for Glasgow and the key message is that this approach could be rolled out anywhere. It is about focussing on the positives of what is already there – the things that work – and using these as a starting point for fixing the bits in between rather than worrying about what you don’t have to start with.

Architecture and Design Scotland would like to thank Glasgow 2014 for providing the footage used in the short film

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