Beijing Olympic Forest Park
Landscape Performance Benefits
- Sequesters an estimated 3,962 metric tons (8,735,000 lbs) of CO2 annually in the trees of the park, equivalent to taking 777 passenger vehicles off the road.
- Reduces annual consumption of potable water by 950,000 cubic meters (250 million gallons), the equivalent of 380 Olympic-sized swimming pools, by using reclaimed water from the Qinghe Waste Water Treatment Plant for landscape irrigation and to recharge park water bodies.
- Generates 83,000 kWh of electricity per year from solar photovoltaic panels installed on top of the trellis structure at the park’s south gate. This is enough to meet the energy needs of 227 China residents for a year and reduce the use of coal by 30 metric tons (66,000 lbs), which in turn reduces the emission of CO2 by 78 metric tons (172,000 lbs), SO2 by 720 kg (1,600 lbs), NOX by 210 kg (460 lbs), smoke by 81 kg (180 lbs), and dust by 45 kg (100 lbs) per year.
- Significantly improves the quality of life for 96% of the 373 visitors surveyed. Most visitors who were interviewed expressed that the Park is a very nice place to enjoy, providing abundant recreation and exercise opportunities.
- Provided an outdoor classroom for about 2,000 children from elementary schools within 2 km of the Park in 2011.
- Created 1,563 new jobs in the park, including landscaping, security, and cleaning services.
At a Glance
Beijing Tsinghua Urban Planning & Design Institute (THUPDI)
Former Land Use
Kehui Road, Chaoyang
At 1,680 acres, Beijing Olympic Forest Park is the largest public green space ever built in Beijing. Built as part of the Olympic Green for the 2008 Summer Games, the park is surrounded by an ultra-urban environment of high-density development and high-volume traffic. The park provides a variety of spaces for urban residents and visitors, including Mount Yangshan, a 50-acre man-made lake, woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, educational facilities, paths, playgrounds and sports fields. The design incorporates traditional Chinese landscape arts and principles that emphasize the harmony between humans and nature, while modern ecological concepts and techniques were widely employed in the park to address goals of zero waste and zero stormwater discharge. Since completion, the park has become an important public green space that provides recreation, educational opportunities, and environmental benefits to Beijing residents and visitors alike.
- A 4-hectare (10-acre) constructed wetland in the southern part of the park treats 2,600 cubic meters (690,000 gallons) of reclaimed water per day and recharges manmade Aohai Lake, which is the “dragon head” of the park’s water system. The wetland was designed to have a meandering flow path, an extended water retention time, and a series of cascading landscapes. Within the wetlands, habitat for various fauna and flora was created.
- In order to maintain wildlife and pedestrian connections, a 60-meter-wide (197 ft), 218-meter-long (715 ft) elevated eco-corridor was designed and built across the 80-meter-wide (262 ft) highway that divides the park.
- More than 2 million plants were installed in the park, including more than 100 tree species and 80 shrub species, along with grassland and wetland species.
- A 24-meter high swift tower was built to provide a home for more than 1,500 swifts, birds that have lived in Beijing for hundreds of years. In recent decades, the population of swifts has declined as many traditional tower structures are demolished and new buildings constructed.
- Various low impact development techniques were employed to retain stormwater on the site, including porous paving, vegetated swales, and retention ponds. The park survived a 50-year storm in 2011, when many nearby areas were severely flooded.
- Different irrigation methods are used for the different types of vegetation. For example, spray irrigation is employed in the northern part of the park and drip irrigation in the south. An intelligent irrigation control system also helps to optimize water use.
- The central heating and cooling system for 21 buildings on the site uses a geothermal pump that transfers heat to and from the ground.
- At the south gate of the park, a solar photovoltaic panel demonstration system is used on two symmetric trellis structures. The system powers part of the park and raises public awareness about renewable energy resources.
- An earth-sheltered building is one of two buildings in the park that provide for research and demonstration of ecological energy-saving techniques. It is partially buried to keep the integrity of the surrounding landscape and respond to landforms. A skylight illumination system reflects, strengthens, and redistributes sunlight to the interior, reducing dependence on artificial illumination and saving up to 1063 kWh of electricity every year.
Olympic Forest Park is located on the northern end of Beijing’s north-south central meridian where the Forbidden City historic palace complex is also situated. The Central Axis is divined by Chinese emperors to demonstrate absolute power. Therefore, one of the greatest design challenges for the park was to respect and emphasize the central meridian using landscape forms and elements. Another major challenge was the urgency to complete the park from design to construction in an extremely limited timeframe. A third challenge was to create a space not just for the 2008 Olympics but also for long-term sustainable public use.
To honor the Central Axis, a water system was created in a shape that symbolizes a dragon. This system also serves as the primary stormwater management feature. To solve the complex project issues within a limited timeframe, the design team was composed of local and overseas experts from multidisciplinary backgrounds such as architecture, landscape architecture, ecology, hydrology, municipal infrastructure, and engineering. To ensure the park’s long-term sustainability, innovative techniques such as reclaimed water treatment, intelligent irrigation, recycling and reuseof solid waste, and an elevated ecological corridor were employed.
- Located in northern China, Beijing is relatively dry, and it is necessary to regularly recharge the water body in the park. Using reclaimed water instead of potable water saves an estimated $448,000 annually.
- The solar photovoltaic panels generate 83,000 KWh every year to power part of the park, which saves about $6,400 annually in electricity costs.
- Long-term maintenance and operation must be a key consideration with any performance metric. To reach the goal of zero waste for the park, an onsite waste treatment system was designed and built to process dead plant tissue, food waste, and sewage by transforming them into organic fertilizer either for use onsite or for sale. However, the company charged with maintaining the park does not want to use it because of uncertainty about its cost-effectiveness – the effort involved in using the system may cost more than the gain.
- The design intent for Olympic Forest Park was to create naturalistic landscapes and therefore, not many trees were planted along the geometric walkways in order to emphasize the artificial sightlines. However, visitor feedback indicates that there is not enough shade along the main walkway to encourage walking in summertime and that more trees would be appreciated.
Client: Beijing Shiao Olympic Forest Park Development and Management Co., Ltd.
Landscape Planner and Designer: Beijing Tsinghua Urban Planning Design Institute, Sasaki Associated Inc.
Construction Document Developer: Beijing Top-Sense Landscape Design Limited Co., China Research Center of Landscape Architecture Design and Planning, Beijing Institute of Landscape and Traditional Architectural Design and Research, Beijing Beilin Landscape Architecture Institute Co., Ltd.
Architect: China Urban Construction Design Research Institute Beijing, THCA Architectural Design and Consulting Institute
Civil Engineer: Beijing Zhongyuan Engineering Design Consultation Company
Role of the Landscape Architect
The Beijing Olympic Forest Park is a large-scale project. The design and construction team included dozens of firms and hundreds of designers and experts from landscape architecture, architecture, civil engineering, transportation, municipal planning, horticulture and history. The landscape architects led the entire group, playing the lead role in conceptual design and master planning, and coordinating the firms and individuals throughout the entire design and construction process.
Case Study Prepared By
Research Fellow: Ming-Han Li, PhD, PLA, PE, Associate Professor, Texas A&M University
Research Fellow: Bruce Dvorak, PLA, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University
Research Assistant: Yi Luo, PLA, PhD Candidate, Texas A&M University
Dvorak, Bruce, Ming-Han Li, and Yi Luo. “Beijing Olympic Forest Park.” Landscape Performance Series. Landscape Architecture Foundation, 2012. https://doi.org/10.31353/cs0280