DTI gives the Greater London Authority £270,000 grant towards installing photovoltaic panels on curved roof

The Greater London Authority is to boost its sustainable credentials by installing high-tech solar panels on the roof of City Hall.

GLA facilities management received a £270,000 grant from the DTI to go ahead with the £500,000 scheme, which will convert light energy into electricity using the curved roof.

The news comes in the wake of criticism that the building does not function as sustainably as it ought. Building recently revealed that the Foster building was using 50% more energy than originally intended.

Allan Jones, chief development officer for the London Climate Change Agency, which helps the mayor reduce carbon emissions in the city, said City Hall was built with the intention of installing photovoltaic panels at a later date.

He said: “The structures were put in when it was built, but we did not install the panels then because it was too costly. The mayor feels that the best place to implement his energy strategy is at City Hall. He sees it as a big step forward.”

Bill Gething, sustainability adviser at the RIBA, said: “This is a good example of the mayor putting his money where his mouth is. I admire what he is doing but I wonder how much energy these panels will actually save.

“I don’t think it will be anywhere near the 10% the mayor is asking other people to save in his energy strategy. You would need a huge number of PV panels, several times the size of the whole building, to make any large energy reductions. This is especially true if the building is not as ‘green’ as it should be.”

City Hall is one of a number of high profile green buildings that have struggled to live up to their green credentials. Foster’s Swiss Re and Hopkins’ Portcullis House have also been found to perform better on paper than in practice.

This discrepancy has been blamed on building managers, who critics says have yet to get to grips with how to run low-energy buildings.

Energy experts at BRE blame a lack of communication between architects and facilities management for the shortfall in performance.

A GLA spokesman said the building was using more energy for two reasons: first because it housed more people than it was designed to do and, second, because it was also used as a conference centre and tourist attraction.

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which is due to come into force next year, will oblige public authorities to publish figures on the energy consumption of buildings.