Olympic Village

Vancouver, British Columbia

Photo Credit: Via Architecture


Initial Research by: Desiree Theriault

Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2017



Project:  Vancouver Olympic Village

Type of Urban StrategyIndustrial Landscapes, Sustainable Design

Type of ProjectRemediation / Sustainable Neighbourhood

LocationVancouver, British Columbia

Date Designed/Planned: 2010

Construction Completed 2014

DesignerVIA Architecture (Urban Planning), Arthur Erickson, and Walter Franci Architecture LTD


Vancouver’s Olympic Village, nestled within the City of Vancouver’s False Creek, has played a vital role in “shifting the city towards a more comprehensive approach to sustainability” (Westerhoff, 2016). In fact, according to the US Green Building Council (USGB), the project has been certified as “The most sustainable neighbourhood in the world’ (Glotman, 2016).


The 14-acre neighbourhood development project houses over 20 buildings that provided a home to over 2,100 athletes of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games (Glotman, 2016). At the end of the Olympics, the project received a new name of ‘The Village’ and contributed a new mixed-use community to the City of Vancouver. The project provides the communities with over 1,100 sustainable residential units, a community centre, community garden, public plaza, multiple schools and three child care centres (Glotman, 2016).



The location of the Olympic Village neighbourhood is nestled within the Southeast False Creek area which is on the south-eastern shore of a small inlet in the heart of the city’s urban landscape (Westerhoff, 2016). The area’s former distinction as a vibrant industrial area faded throughout the 1970s and 80s, leaving behind a mostly unused parcel of City-owned brownfield. The city utilized this land to bring in innovative green technology that would set the tone for the city’s future and provide a model for sustainable communities across North America. The project also offers a much-needed accessibility point between the Downtown core and the Grandville Island and West False Creek neighbourhood; establishing a stronger network across the City of Vancouver.

The Olympic Village is a project that nourishes the city’s environment dynamics and remains a crucial player in the realization of Vancouver’s sustainability goals

(Westerhoff, 2016).


The funding for this project came mostly from the City of Vancouver and the government of Canada with a $110 million legacy fund. The money was intended to be used for the overall operation and construction of the site. However, due to the innovative and green techniques taken to enrich the project – the Olympic Village went way over budget. The financial deficit caused significant uproar throughout the city, deeming the project a failure in its attempt to create innovative techniques for affordable housing. It wasn’t until 13 months before the start of the Olympic games that Vancouver received a loan of $690 million to pay off the rest of the construction. With this loan, the development and design of the Olympic Village were severely diminished, having to convert many of the affordable housing into luxury suites to pay off the substantial debt.

In the OGI report, the Vancouver Olympics of 2010 had a total cost of $4 billion, with an additional $3 billion in infrastructure. They also estimated that taxpayers funded approximately 62% of the total cost at $4.8 billion (OGI-UBC Post-Games report 2013, p.10).


With its proximity to the downtown core and its desirable waterfront, the Olympic Village provides residents with some of the most beautiful living locations. Residents are close to numerous public amenities therefore cutting down the use of vehicles and activating the public realm.


The Vancouver Olympic Village aimed to respond to the Climate Change reports established by the city’s tasks force in the 1990s (Westerhoff, 2015), which recommended that the City of Vancouver improves their transportation planning, housing and employment opportunities in the downtown core. In 2003, the City of Vancouver found out that they were chosen to be the host city for the Winter Olympics of 2010. This opportunity provided the city with a perfect chance to address their goals towards a more environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable city.

The site chosen to host the Winter Olympics was the Southeast False Creek that overlooks the waterfront and is within proximity to the downtown core. Historically, the southeast shore of False Creek operated as an industrial hub, which was later abandoned in the 1980s and 70s creating a large brownfield site on the waterfront of Vancouver. The proximity to the water’s edge and its closeness to the downtown core provided the city with an opportunity to address their goals and the recommendation of the 1990s task force. The main objective of the project involved establishing a framework for a model sustainable neighbourhood while utilizing sustainable and resilient features such as energy-efficiency, waste-management, water-management and urban agriculture (Toronto, 2016).

The Vancouver Olympic development began its planning and began construction in 2006, finishing in 2010. Throughout this short construction and planning period, the project was awarded LEED Platinum for its efforts in energy efficiency, green technology and sustainable management. Also, the project was recognized as one of the most sustainable communities in North America, consuming 50% less energy than a standard North American building (Glotman, 2010). The project housed athletes and Olympic officials during the 2010 Winter Olympic games and comprised of a multitude of community facilities, outdoor parks, urban plazas, and restoration projects.

After the 2010 Winter Games, the Olympic Village become a residential and mixed-use community under the name of Southeast False Creek – The Village. Today (as of 2017), The Village houses approximately 100,000 residents where 252 units are made out to be affordable housing, all of which are in proximity of the downtown core and the water’s edge. The project had a powerful impact on the City of Vancouver’s green technology and future developments (Millennium, 2013).


One of the biggest challenges that faced the City of Vancouver was revitalizing 12 acres of a previously developed industrial brownfield site. In addition to this tremendous feat, the site also located itself in one of the most prime areas of the city: at the waterfront edge located right near the center of downtown. The project responds environmentally to the sites contaminated soils, and socially to increase a dynamic opportunity within the downtown core (Via, 2017).

With that in mind, the Olympic Village responded to these challenges by envisioning a neighbourhood that would occupy the former industrial wastelands and transform it into a highly liveable, sustainable, mixed-use environment that invigorates the downtown core and create the fundamentals of green technology and sustainable communities in Vancouver. Later, the project serves as a staple model for sustainable communities and neighbourhoods across North America (ByLaws, 2015).


The biggest goal of the project was to create a “Model Sustainable Community” that would effectively introduce the City of Vancouver to a healthy, sustainable, and resilient way of living. The urban strategy of centring on energy-efficiency and mixed-use community allowed for the Olympic Village to strive as a unique, efficient and significant factor in the future of Vancouver’s developments. Some of the goals of the project involved both social and environmental goals, including:

-Providing a community identity – designating the community as a liveable, sustainable neighbourhood that carries unique characteristics

-Involvement in public processes – creating a neighbourhood-associate to promote public participation and education

-Social interaction – Developing numerous places that encourage social engagement and enhance the character of the space.

-Community networks and organizations – Creating community organizations

-Implementing Sustainability – Improve all aspects of the neighbourhood and community by utilizing urban strategies that create resiliency, conserve resources and serve as an energy-efficiency platform

-Stewardship of ecosystem health – Improving ecological health of the False Creek basin. Conserving, restoring and managing the local and regional ecosystems.

-Creating Economic viability and vitality – Establishing a framework for the development of other sustainable projects and provide opportunities for employment and investment for future prosperity.

-Establishing energy efficiency – Using an energy requirement for all buildings on the Olympic Village site

-Creating water efficiency – All water systems must be in co-ordinance with the green building strategy to minimize the use of potable water. Including water irrigation and stormwater management.

-Integrating Urban Agriculture – Establishing a community garden near the Community center as well as a Farmer’s Market to encourage podiums, onsite composition, green roofs, and rainwater collection.

-Habitat and ecosystems – The planning process is to support biodiversity and habitat corridors in parks and promote private open spaces that utilize native plantings and landscaping materials.


The city’s goal of catalyzing an innovative future relied heavily on the attention to sustainable urban planning principles. With this in mind, the Millennium Development Group created a site plan that would not only enhance the public realm but would also characterize the former industrial wasteland.

The first planning phase of the project looked at dividing the parcel of land that would configure the neighbourhood’s networks, nodes and connections. The process involved documenting existing buildings, heritage sites and planning neighbourhood parcels, parks, densities, massing, and public amenities.

One of the essential aspects of the development and phasing of the project was creating an identity for the neighbourhood of South East False Creek. As a result, retaining and restoring heritage buildings was necessary for the overall look and feel of the environment. Additionally, the ambitious project involved keeping up with Vancouver's elegant residential, public realm that strived on Medium to Low rise buildings and stepping down from the downtown core.

During construction, the multiple architecture and engineering firms involved utilized innovative approaches and green technologies throughout the project development. Some passive design strategies included using solar shades, building orientation, sulphate resistant concrete, special truss frames, drought resistant and native plantings, stormwater management, rainwater harvesting, green roofs, and a net-zero energy utility plan (Millennium, 2013).


The most significant role of the designers was to maximize energy efficiency and provide a sustainable, livable, diverse, and unique community. The project utilized 12 urban principles to define the character and sustainability of the project. These urban principles included:

1. Overall basin form legibility

2. Distinct neighbourhood precincts

3. Integrated Community

4. Street Hierarchy

5. Connected public open spaces and parks

6. Integrated transit

7. Vibrant commercial heart

8. Waterfront animation

9. Clustered community services

10. Heritage recognition

11. Incremental varied development

12. Demonstrate sustainability

Together, these urban principles allow the designers to provide sustainable solutions to the Olympic Village and creates a neighbourhood that creates social equity, livability, ecological health and economic prosperity to the citizens of Vancouver.

(Millennium, 2013)


The Olympic Village was recognized as the “Most Sustainable Neighborhood in the World” by the US Green Building Council (Glotman-Simpson, 2017). The redevelopment of the former industrial site, coupled with the revitalization along the False Creek profited not only economically to the City of Vancouver, but also socially (Green Building Brain, 2017). It gave its citizens, as well as the world, a new view on sustainably responding to climate change with the use of green technologies and innovative approaches to create vibrant communities. Although controversial, the project provided a strategy tool kit to all of North America on how to combat the effects of Climate Change (Millennium, 2017).


N.a. "Vancouver Olympic Village – Glotman Simpson." Glotmansimpson.com. n.d. Web. 26 May 2017. http://glotmansimpson.com/project/vancouver-olympic-village/ N.a. "Green Building Brain - Southeast False Creek - Olympic Village." Greenbuildingbrain.org. n.d. Web. 26 May 2017. http://greenbuildingbrain.org/buildings/Southeast_False_Creek_Olympic_Village# Westerhoff, Lisa M. "Emerging Narratives of a Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood: The Case of Vancouver’s Olympic Village." Articulo.revues.org. 9 Nov. 2016. Web. 30 May 2017. https://articulo.revues.org/2974 N.a. "." Bylaws.vancouver.ca. 13 Aug. 2015. Web. 30 May 2017. http://bylaws.vancouver.ca/odp/SEFC.pdf N.a. "." Millenniumdevelopment.com. 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 31 May 2017. http://millenniumdevelopment.com/Olympic-Village/documents/globeAwards2010.pdf Canadian Architect. "Master Plan/Village, Vancouver Olympics. - Canadian Architect." Canadian Architect. 14 Jul. 2003. Web. 26 May 2017. https://www.canadianarchitect.com/architecture/master-plan-village-vancouver-olympics/1000028866/ N.a. "." Www1.toronto.ca. 3 Nov. 2016. Web. 30 May 2017. http://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/City%20Planning/SIPA/Files/pdf/V/Southeast%20False%20Creek.pdf N.a. "Southeast False Creek Master Plan » VIA Architecture." Via-architecture.com. n.d. Web. 24 May 2017. http://www.via-architecture.com/project/southeast-false-creek-master-plan/


Some of the many programmed elements include:

Water Efficiency:

-Dual flush toilets, low-flow faucets/showerheads

-Drought resistant, native indigenous planting species and landscape space designed for urban agriculture

-Rainwater irrigation and green roof management

-50% roof and courtyard areas covered with green roofs

Energy and Atmosphere:

-Utilize the Southeast False Creek Neighborhood Energy Utility

-Net-Zero Energy Building will produce as much energy as it uses

-In general, buildings must perform 20% better than ASHRAE 90.1 – 1999 or 29% better than Model National Energy Code

-Energy efficient appliances, lighting

-Lower energy costs with daylighting, shading, and thermal storage to conserve energy

Waste Management:

-Composting for on-site gardens and landscaping

-Provision for three streams of waste collection

-Management of construction and demolition waste

-Sustainable Buildings

-Optimum energy – performing homes for greater comfort and livability

-Climate-responsive design that is architecturally beautiful

-High-quality materials for value and aesthetics

-Floor plans that let you quickly adapt your space

-LEED Neighborhood Development programming

-Low-emitting materials