CASE STUDY - LONDON MARATHON MILE MARKERS

A world class event

The London Marathon is the world’s biggest one-day fundraising event and one of the premier marathon events in the world. The London Marathon is run by the company London Marathon Events Ltd (LME) who host other events in the capital such as ‘Ride London’ and the ‘Big Half’.

The London Marathon is an extremely popular event, with over 350,000 people applying for the 2022 event. This popularity is justified: the London Marathon is a spectacular occasion, with an exciting course and great access for spectators.

To remain a renowned worldwide event, London Marathon Events needs to ensure that the marathon keeps evolving. The London Marathon's mile markers have been made in previous year’s using scaffolding and signboard and LME decided that an update to a more impressive structure was due.

However, delivering new and inspiring course features without unduly impacting the environment is a challenge, particularly given the potential for waste at a one-day event with lots of temporary installations.

Discovering the solution

To select the new design for the marathon mile markers, London Marathon Events decided to involve the local community and asked the Stephen Lawrence Trust (now renamed as ‘Blueprint For All’) to help organise a design competition for aspiring architects. One team of these young architects got in touch with Scaled Ltd to see if 3D printing could work as a manufacturing method for their concept. Working with London Marathon Events and the winning architect team, Scaled Ltd was able to take the concept and engineer a solution that could work both aesthetically and functionally.

To meet the sustainability concerns of the London Marathon, Scaled Ltd proposed building the markers from 100% recycled plastic.

Using 3D printing meant that a prototype design could be delivered in a matter of a few weeks rather than months. The requirement for 52 markers did not represent high-volume production. As such, 3D printing offered the flexibility to test designs and immediately go into production without risk - potential alterations to the design would not incur lengthy lead times and cost penalties.

One proposed alternative to 3D printing was to make the markers out of steel. This would have made the markers heavy and, therefore, more difficult to install and would have offered no sustainability benefits.

Beneficial outcomes

Scaled Ltd were commissioned by London Marathon Events Ltd to produce 52 mile marker structures for the London Marathon. The markers were successfully delivered for the October 2022 London Marathon.

Scaled Ltd engineering enabled the mile markers to fulfil London Marathon Events’ requirements: 

  • Aesthetically - The markers are true to the young architects original design concept of a 3.5m high honeycomb pattern.
  • Sustainably - The markers were made from entirely waste plastic - a total 14 tonnes of plastic was saved from being put to landfill or incinerated. From this total, 7.5 tonnes of the waste was from previous events held by London Marathon Events helping to improve their sustainable credentials. The additional 6.5 tonnes was ocean recovered plastic, by-product from industrial processes and waste from the early testing phases of the project. And, when the mile markers have reached the end of their useful life, they can be recycled again and then made into any new temporary or permanent structure one can imagine. 
  • Practically - the markers are temporary structures, erected and taken down each year. This needs to be done fast to minimise traffic disruption in London. The design of the markers means they can be put up and taken down faster than the previous scaffold solution.
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