Strata


Strata SE1: image from Wikimedia.


London’s progress towards being a greener city took another leap this month, as the blades of the Elephant & Castle’s new £1.3million Strata building creaked into motion at last.


The tallest residential structure in London has already been attracting attention: whether you call it the Electric Razor, the Lipstick, or “the kind of heroically stylised building you would expect to see in some 1930s sci-fi movie,” at 43 storeys the Strata is not a building to ignore. This summer Building Design magazine awarded it the 2010 Carbuncle Cup award for ugliest building, and it hit the news a week later for being so “tropical” that its few early-uptake residents couldn’t stay indoors.


That problem was blamed on under-occupation of the building, which wasn’t yet finished, due to internal ventilation doors being shut. But with more people moving in, the system’s efficiency should improve. The wind turbines – the first in the world to be mounted directly into the structure of the building – are expected to generate 8% of the energy needs of the building. As the electricity grid is decarbonised, this would add nicely to the building’s carbon savings.


But looking at it another way, the wind turbines will be powering 8% of three lifts, automated window-cleaning rigs, and the lighting, heating and ventilation of its public spaces, which include an underground car park.


Ellis Woodman, the Daily Telegraph architecture critic who led the Carbuncle Cup judging panel, has said: “A skyscraper is an energy-greedy building form, both in terms of construction, and the power needed to take people to their front doors in a lift. To top one off with some wind turbines is the worst sort of greenwashing.”


The eyes of the world, and especially the energy-saving world, are on the Strata building. Its 9-metre turbines have five blades, rather than the usual three, to reduce airborne noise, and are mounted on a 5-tonne inertia base – mounted on four anti-vibration dampers. (On a large scale, this is pretty much the same engineering that prevents your washing machine shaking round your kitchen when it spins.) So, will it be feasible to live underneath what even its promoters are calling a small windfarm?


Strata’s residents are the front-line reporters who will tell us whether these turbines are really the beginning of a greener future, or whether it was really all a greenwash.


In fact, although they live in an energy-hungry tower they can still take matters into their own hands and use energy wisely in their own homes. The Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College recently reported that energy efficient behaviour in the home may be even more important than we thought in cutting CO2 emissions. So, Strata residents: we’ll give you a helping hand right here.


Coming soon: Kinetica, in Dalston.