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Montreal Olympic Stadium: From Notorious White Elephant to $30M in Clean Energy Savings

By BF Nagy

· Hub members' stories,General

According to a 2014 report in, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium has a special place in history as the most over-budget white elephant project in the world of architecture. It’s $148 million budget eventually increased to more than $1.6 billion. Today building energy and material waste are being minimized, a new chapter has been written for the Big O, and there are signs everywhere that construction industry productivity is finally being addressed by the sector’s leaders.

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The future will include more 3D modelling, prefab economies and accountability in construction contracts, like the new contract signed a few years ago for the Olympic Stadium. It’s a very different kind of deal that reflects the complete lack of appetite for any more wasteful spending on a 40 year-old embarrassment that now hosts trade shows, daredevil shows and cannot even lure the lowly CFL as a tenant.

So this time it’s different. A series of upgrades that started in 2013 are not over budget or late, and the project has become an awesome symbol of clean energy savings and efficiency in Montreal. Ecosystem, a nimble design-build engineering firm, offered an iron-clad contract that guaranteed in writing that the entire $15 million retrofit budget would be recovered, through future energy savings, or they would pick up the tab for the difference.

Today’s advanced energy modelling and vastly more efficient clean tech meant that the guarantee wasn’t really much of a gamble. Ecosystem makes this guarantee on all of its projects; and it is doing just fine profitwise, thank you very much. The Big O Operations Manager Dominic Desjardins says the actual energy savings seem to be closer to $1.5M per year than the $1.3M required under the agreement.

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The other photo in this post is the new Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence at York University in Toronto. Inside this building young engineers are learning all about clean systems like geothermal, solar, energy recovery; and construction efficiency through 3D modelling, virtual reality/GPS, prefab components and guaranteed energy savings contracts. The complex, lab-filled, energy-efficient Centre itself was designed and built in just three years, using many of these processes.

The long-read journalism version of this story can be found here. Scroll to page 12.

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Author of 150+ feature articles on clean energy. My new book will be published in October of 2018 by Rowman & Littlefield in Washington DC. It contains clean energy solutions and Top 10 lists of climate actions for all of us. Would you like to see your list? Learn more about my new book here.


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