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Why Elephant and Castle’s iconic Strata tower wind turbines barely move  

Credit:  The turbines have barely moved since it launched in 2010 | ByJosiah Mortimer, City Hall Editor | MyLondon | 31 Mar 2022 | www.mylondon.new ~~

Southwark locals have lifted the lid on why the wind turbines on an iconic ‘green’ building in South London never seem to be spinning. It comes after renewed debate and confusion from Londoners who regularly pass the Strata SE1 tower in Elephant and Castle – and haven’t once seen the wind turbines on top in operation.

Image: Frerk Meyer

A post received hundreds of comments on Reddit this week as a user asked: “Anyone know if the fans in this building in Elephant & Castle actually do anything? I’ve never seen them spinning.” Responses included: “Someone who used to live in the building told me they were noisy for the closest flats [to the top] which were, of course, the most expensive. Hence they are now never used.”

Another added: “Apparently they sank a lot of money into making them energy efficient. Then, on day one realised folks in the penthouses wouldn’t put up with the noise.”

Now the chair of Southwark ’s planning committee has confirmed that the three iconic wind turbines on the building were shut off due to the high levels of noise and vibrations they generated. Labour councillor Martin Seaton was not in post when it was constructed, but has constituents in the block.

He told MyLondon : “In the very early days on my first term, I received some complaints that residents were being disturbed by the blades spinning. The wind turbines haven’t worked since, mainly because of complaints of the noise disturbing residents.”

He added: “It doesn’t work, it’s a white elephant. [The developers] didn’t take into account when the turbines span they’d vibrate throughout the building. It seems obvious to you and I, but the designers and planners are infinitely cleverer than us, and missed the blindingly obvious.”

He said the complaints came from those higher up the building: “The closer you were to the top, the louder it was, but it propagated throughout the building. How on earth the planners and designers missed it, I have no idea.”

The building, which is one of the tallest residential buildings in London, was completed in June 2010. It cost around £113.5 million to build and sits on the old site of Castle House, a 1960s office-style building in Elephant and Castle.

The wind turbines were understood to be a key sweetener for securing planning permission. Promotional materials for the development include extensive clips of the turbines spinning shortly after construction, including one of the developers saying: “We’re sending a message that you can incorporate new technologies…and we can reduce the carbon footprint.” An engineer later says: “The three turbines are on and running.”

Architecture critics have since accused the turbines of being a form of “greenwashing”, a term to describe a building’s attempt to appear more sustainable and eco-friendly, but actually cause a lot more damage than good. In August 2010, the development was awarded the 2010 Carbuncle Cup for bad architecture, recognising it as one of the “the ugliest buildings in the United Kingdom completed in the last 12 months”.

Claire Sheppard, a local Green Party campaigner and candidate in May, told MyLondon: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen them on and I used to commute past them every day. It was always a green gimmick really, to burnish the green credentials.”

Local resident Eleanor Margolies, who went to a presentation from the architects before it was constructed, added: “The architects might have been a bit too much in love with the idea of the turbines, and not doing the engineering.

“At any rate, the residents on the top floor found it too noisy. And so the turbines which were key to the presentation of the building as environmentally friendly have been turned off ever since.”

An estate agent selling a luxury penthouse in the block said the turbines were shut down immediately after the block opened. “As soon as it was built, the noise became an issue,” they told MyLondon.

A penthouse in the block is currently selling for £1.6m, boasting: “The Houses of Parliament, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge, St Pauls and the Olympic Stadium are just a few of the landmarks that can be seen” from the tower. The apartment’s energy rating is “C”.

Each of the three turbines was designed to produce 19.5kw of electricity. For context, a single washing machine uses around 2kw per hour. There are unconfirmed rumours that the owners are planning to refurbish the turbines so that they can be turned on for use in the coming years.

Southwark’s Strata SE1 Tower is home to more than 1,000 residents and 408 flats. The tower was once branded ‘The Lipstick’ by Boris Johnson, who also said it had “a bit of oomph about it”. The building is 148-metres tall with 43 storeys.

Source:  The turbines have barely moved since it launched in 2010 | ByJosiah Mortimer, City Hall Editor | MyLondon | 31 Mar 2022 | www.mylondon.new

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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